Sony says it believes Xbox owning Call of Duty ‘could influence users’ console choice’
Regulatory docs reveal the PlayStation firm’s thoughts on the Activision Blizzard acquisition
Sony believes Call of Duty could inspire users to switch to Xbox following Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard.
That’s according to the company’s official response to questions from the Brazil’s regulatory body (first spotted by Resetera), which like many regions, is currently studying the proposed deal for approval.
Along with other companies such as Ubisoft, Amazon and Google, Sony’s responses to several questions about the proposed acquisition have been published in full by the Brazilian government.
Update - Microsoft responds
Microsoft has responded to Sony‘s claims that its ongoing attempt to acquire Activision Blizzard would be anti-competitive, especially with regard to Call of Duty.
In the report – transcribed by VGC – Microsoft notes that while numerous third parties, including Ubisoft and Bandai Namco, gave responses to CADE, Sony was the only company that claimed Call of Duty was in a genre of its own with no competition.
“Only one third party, Sony, presented materially different opinions than the Applicants and the other third parties consulted by the SG,” Microsoft claims. “Sony is isolated in this understanding and, curiously, even contradicts itself in its response to the letter, as will be detailed below.”
Sony’s response – transcribed by VGC – mostly outlines the current state of triple-A game development for the Brazilian regulator. However, large portions highlight the importance the PlayStation firm puts in Call of Duty, a franchise which it claims “influences users’ console choice.”
Official Dark Water Level Gameplay - Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II
In its questionnaire answers, Sony calls Call of Duty “an essential game: a blockbuster, an AAA-type game that has no rival.”
“According to a 2019 study, ‘The importance of Call of Duty to entertainment, in general, is indescribable,’” the company said. “The brand was the only video game IP to break into the top 10 of all entertainment brands among fans, joining powerhouses such as Star Wars, Game of Thrones, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings.
“Call of Duty is so popular that it influences users’ choice of console, and its community of loyal users is entrenched enough that even if a competitor had the budget to develop a similar product, it would not be able to rival it.”
Sony went on to explain how the huge resources Activision puts behind Call of Duty are the core reason why it believes the FPS series is unlikely to be rivalled by a competitor.
“Each annual Call of Duty release takes around 3-5 years to develop. As Activision releases one Call of Duty game per year, this equates to an annual investment of hundreds of millions of dollars,” it explained.
“Approximately 1,200 people work on each version and another 1,500 are involved in publishing and distribution. Thus, Call of Duty alone has more developers than most game companies employ across its entire development portfolio, including AAA studios.
“Also, given its plans to recruit 2,000 additional developers by 2021, Activision probably expects Call of Duty to become even more successful in the future.
“No other developer can devote the same level of resources and expertise in game development. Even if they could do that, Call of Duty is overly entrenched, so that no rival – no matter how relevant they are – can catch up.”
Sony went on to note that Call of Duty has been the top-selling game for almost every year for the past decade and, for its genre, “is overwhelmingly the best-selling game”.
“It is synonymous with first-person shooter games and essentially defines that category,” it said. “This is also demonstrated by player engagement on social media: Call of Duty has over 24 million followers on Facebook versus 7 million for Battlefield; and over 12 million followers on Instagram versus 2 million for Battlefield.”
It added: “To say the least, players would be unlikely to switch to alternative games, as they would lose that familiarity, those skills and even the friends they made playing the Call of Duty games.
“Even in weaker years like 2021, Call of Duty still managed to outperform most other games by a considerable margin. Call of Duty: Vanguard (2021), for example, was widely regarded as weaker than previous years’ titles, but was still one of the best-selling games of 2021. In other words, even in a bad year, players remain loyal to the brand and continue to buy the game.”
In its first response to Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard published in January, Sony said it expects Call of Duty games to remain multiplatform due to “contractual agreements”.
Microsoft’s head of gaming also subsequently confirmed his intention to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation platforms once Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard is completed.
However, it was later claimed that Activision Blizzard is contractually committed to releasing only the next three Call of Duty games for PlayStation consoles, including this year’s Modern Warfare 2.
The Call of Duty series is regularly among PlayStation’s most popular games. Last year, the series was both the first (Vanguard) and third (Black Ops Cold War) best-selling games on PlayStation in the US, according to NPD.