Microsoft Gaming head confirms Activision’s ‘Call of Duty’ will keep coming to PlayStation

Activision’s Call of Duty is the single best-selling franchise in modern video games. (Activision Image)

New Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer has confirmed that the best-selling video game series Call of Duty will continue to be available on the PlayStation platform, two days after Microsoft announced plans to acquire the game’s publisher, Activision Blizzard, in a $68.7 billion deal.

“Had good calls this week with leaders at Sony,” Spencer tweeted Thursday afternoon. “I confirmed our intent to honor all existing agreements upon acquisition of Activision Blizzard and our desire to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation. Sony is an important part of our industry, and we value our relationship.”

This is broadly in keeping with the precedent established by Microsoft’s previous gaming acquisitions. For example, the Bethesda-published action game Deathloop was a timed console exclusive for Sony’s PlayStation 5, despite coming out well after Microsoft purchased Bethesda’s parent company Zenimax Media in 2020.

It was unlikely from the jump that Microsoft would make any Activision Blizzard game an Xbox exclusive, let alone a game from the monstrously popular Call of Duty series. Spencer has been explicit for over a year that Microsoft cares more about player engagement and subscription numbers than raw hardware or software sales. Even last year’s killer app for the Xbox, Halo Infinite, is also available on Steam. Exclusives, to Microsoft’s mind, just limit a game’s potential audience.

What this acquisition does do, assuming it goes through, is put Spencer in charge at Activision Blizzard, via his new position as the head of the new Microsoft Gaming division, and let Microsoft add titles from both Activision and Blizzard’s back catalog of classics to the Xbox Game Pass.

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It’s also likely to set off a wave of additional acquisitions in the near future, as competing companies either draw together to stay relevant against Microsoft or plump their value in anticipation of their own sale.

Microsoft announced on Tuesday morning that it had entered into an agreement to acquire Activision Blizzard, the California-based holding company that manages both Activision (Call of Duty, Skylanders) and Blizzard (Warcraft, Starcraft, Overwatch). The $68.7 billion cash deal is the single largest acquisition in Microsoft’s history — triple the amount the tech giant paid for LinkedIn in 2017.

The impact of this deal on the video game industry is hard to overstate. Activision Blizzard is the single biggest third-party developer in the current market, entirely off the back of its blockbuster franchises. Call of Duty in particular has a mobile app, Warzone, that practically prints money, and the series releases a new game every year for consoles and PC that reliably moves millions of units. 2021’s Vanguard and 2020’s Black Ops – Cold War were the No. 1 and No. 2 best-selling games of 2021.

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