Submissions from both Sony and Microsoft to the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) have been released, detailing arguments from both companies about Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard.
The submissions, which are both lengthy and in typical, hard-to-decipher legalese, go into great detail about where each company stands on the merger and how it will affect the competitiveness of the market. Naturally, Sony’s submission shows it largely against the deal, while Microsoft is, of course, in favour of it. (Thanks Eurogamer!)
While the documents do tend to be very dry, as anything written by a lawyer will be, there are some incredibly juicy details buried deep within their pages, too. Microsoft’s submission, for example, has the company almost singing Sony’s praises, in an effort to show the CMA that Sony is absolutely not hurting in the games space.
The submission has Microsoft calling Sony “the dominant console provider”, as well as a “powerful game publisher”, and calling out Sony’s successful publishing business, which it says is nearly double the size of its own. It also describes Sony’s first-party games, including God of War and the recently-acquired Destiny 2, as “iconic”, saying further that they rank among the best-selling titles worldwide.
It’s at this point that Microsoft drops the bomb, admitting that Sony had nearly five times as many first- and third-party exclusives than Microsoft does, “many of which are better quality” than its own. It’s pretty rare for a company to admit its games are worse than a competitor’s, but when you’re fighting for the right to acquire a major publisher, it seems just about anything is on the table.
Sony on the other hand seems to have its eyes set squarely on Call of Duty, which it says Microsoft would have “the ability and incentive” to exclude rivals, including itself, from having access to. It argues that consumers, competition, and independent developers would all be harmed if the deal were allowed to go ahead, and that any decision made “should not rest on a static assessment based on current or past shares in consoles”.
Despite the bickering about specific franchises, however, Microsoft has said that the deal isn’t “all about Call of Duty”, but instead mostly about access to Activision Blizzard’s mobile development assets. Xbox head Phil Spencer said that Candy Crush developer King, which was acquired by Activision in 2016, is a key component to continued growth in the games space.
Despite that, the company has been trying to quell fears over the proposed $100b acquisition, with Microsoft even offering Sony a 10-year Call of Duty deal that would see the franchise stay on PlayStation consoles until the end of the console generation and beyond.
Written by Oliver Brandt on behalf of GLHF.