It’s now been more than a year since Microsoft announced its intentions to acquire Activision and things haven’t gone smoothly for the tech giant. Obviously, the ideal outcome for Microsoft would have been for all regulatory boards to approve the acquisition without much friction, but that certainly didn’t happen. Throughout the process of obtaining approval in Brazil, the United Kingdom and the United States, Sony has made very public arguments against the acquisition that seem to revolve around the Call of Duty franchise. Sony’s early PlayStation 3 hubris is back, and after their counter-arguments against Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision, their anti-consumer practices and desperate attempts to avoid competition are now more visible than ever – and it looks bad.
The arguments Sony makes against the Microsoft acquisition are many, but the main ones do a great job of highlighting the hypocrisy of the industry leader – often in a remarkably shameless display of arrogance. Sony’s argument against the acquisition was based on three main points: an inability to compete significantly with Call of Duty, speculation that Microsoft’s ownership of Call of Duty would lead to a deterioration in the quality of the series on PlayStation, and its current holding. Less market share than Microsoft in the gaming subscription services segment of the market. These arguments could be made if it weren’t for Sony’s own actions making the context of said claims look completely silly.
One of Sony’s oft-repeated objections to the Activision purchase was the gaming industry’s inability to come up with a significant competitor to Call of Duty. Of Sony’s biggest complaints, this is the most believable. In their response to the UK regulatory body, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), Sony argued that they believe no publisher can create a Call of Duty competitor and that the popularity of the franchise has the ability to dictate which platform consumers choose to purchase.
This complaint is quite the revelation and while it could be argued that it is true, what Sony failed to address in the citation of this complaint is their marketing deal with Activision that has been in place since the beginning of the eighth generation of consoles. For nearly a decade, Sony has had an exclusive marketing agreement with Activision that puts Sony’s PlayStation platform at the forefront of all Call of Duty marketing as if it were the primary, if not only, place to play the world’s most popular first-person shooter. shooter.
So it’s only natural that Sony would be concerned about Call of Duty’s ability to influence a consumer’s decision about which hardware platform to buy, they’ve enjoyed that influence for over 10 years – and that benefit has come at a heavy financial cost to Sony. But now that Microsoft has shown a willingness to outbid Sony, does Call of Duty’s influence over consumers make this bid anti-competitive? Maintaining intellectual consistency requires recognizing that if Microsoft’s presentation of the Xbox as the primary place to play Call of Duty is anti-competitive, then what Sony has been doing for nearly ten years was as well.
Another of Sony’s biggest talking points about why the purchase shouldn’t be allowed concerns the quality of the Call of Duty games experience across platforms. Sony claims that Microsoft’s purchase and ownership of Call of Duty may lead to the Call of Duty experience on PlayStation becoming less vulnerable and inherently less than compared to other platforms. Again, this concern can be justified if you ignore some contextual details.
First of all, Microsoft extended contractual obligations to the major platform holders, including Nintendo, Valve and Sony, pledging to bring Call of Duty to the appropriate platforms for the next ten years. Nintendo did not hesitate to sign the contractValve issued a statement that they have There are many reasons to take Microsoft at their word and not feel the need for a contract, and Sony flatly refused to sign the contract calling it “unsatisfactory on many levels”. This absolute refusal to guarantee Call of Duty on the PlayStation platform can be interpreted as a principled stance in consumer protection trying to prevent games from becoming death and lesser experiences depending on which platform they play if not for one specific trailer.
During the PlayStation State of Play presentation on September 13, 2022, Sony had the pleasure of showing a new trailer for the upcoming Wizarding World game Hogwarts legacy. The trailer focused entirely on The Haunted Hogsmeade Shop quest, which admittedly looks extremely entertaining. However, the reason for this trailer’s relevance comes at the tail end, where it is confirmed on screen that the mission is exclusive to PlayStation and includes an additional dungeon, a shopkeeper cosmetic kit, and an in-game Hogsmeade shop.
The fact that Sony can present the argument that they are worried about the competition and the Call of Duty experience becoming diminished or less than on the PlayStation is completely contrary to them having an exclusive questline on the PlayStation. Hogwarts legacy. Hogwarts legacy There will undoubtedly be a lesser experience on Xbox and PC now, but Sony doesn’t seem worried about the competition in this case. It’s almost as if this trailer comes hot on the heels of their less experienced argument exposing Sony’s actions for what they really are, a stable one.
And finally, Sony’s last significant complaints lie with Microsoft’s market share in the gaming subscription services segment of the industry. It’s no secret that Game Pass is the most popular subscription game service in the country. The service began in June 2017 as a way to shake up the industry and offer value to the consumer when Microsoft’s Xbox brand was on the ropes against Sony’s PlayStation 4. With their new model, Microsoft has also committed to launching every day and date of their first party games on the service.
Not only did it take five years for Sony to respond with a similar service of their own, but when they did, they still refused and continue to refuse to put their first party games on the PlayStation Plus Extra and Premium services on day one. Sony’s concern about Activision buying Microsoft and apparently releasing Call of Duty on their Game Pass service every year rings true when Sony itself refuses to put their award-winning first-party games on the day and date of their competing service. In short: Sony refuses to compete and is bothered by what is expected of it.
Since the introduction of the PlayStation 5, Sony’s business practices have become increasingly anti-consumer. From obfuscating PlayStation 4 releases to outright lying about games being exclusive to the platform, raising the price of their console in every region that doesn’t drive the PlayStation hype train Sony has been anything but consumerist this generation.
Activision’s attempted acquisition of Microsoft only gave Sony more opportunities to prove that the days of their PS3 “I’ll work more hours to buy one” levels of hubris are back. If the acquisition goes through then Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision could be good for consumers or it could be bad for consumers, but one thing we all have to agree on is that Sony’s arguments are made in bad faith and their advocacy is only for their convenience in not having to compete in the market.