The endlessly silly debacle between Microsoft and Sony, regarding the former’s attempt to buy Activision Blizzard King, offers as a new lowlight every day. Yesterday we had Microsoft declaring that it has rubbish exclusive titles compared to Sony, and today Sony has just loudly dissed EA’s Battlefield franchise in an effort to prove how much better Call of Duty performs.
It’s all part of an ongoing effort to demonstrate that one of the world’s biggest console manufacturers shouldn’t own one of the world’s biggest game publishers, which — you know — sounds like a bad idea. But as Sony and Microsoft endlessly debase themselves and others to try to win a Who’s Worst argument, it seems nothing is sacred. Hence the PlayStation owner’s astonishing declaration to the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) that EA’s Battlefield would be a poor substitute were it to lose access to the Call of Duty franchise.
“Call of Duty is not replicable,” says Sony’s filing to the CMA, as reported by The Verge. “Call of Duty is too entrenched for any rival, no matter how well equipped, to catch up.” Explaining that it’s been the top-selling game “almost” every year for the last decade, it says that “other publishers do not have the resources or expertise to match its success.” Now, that all sounds a touch spurious, given that at one point the Medal of Honour series outsold Call of Duty, but it’s certainly true that in terms of a brand, CoD has everything else beat. But to drive that point home, Sony waits for an oncoming bus and then shoves hard:
To give a concrete example, Electronic Arts — one of the largest third-party developers after Activision — has tried for many years to produce a rival to Call of Duty with its Battlefield series. Despite the similarities between Call of Duty and Battlefield — and despite EA’s track record in developing other successful AAA franchise (such as FIFA, Mass Effect, Need For Speed, and Star Wars: Battlefront) — the Battlefield franchise cannot keep up.
Sony adds that Battlefield’s latest entry — the comparable miss of 2042 — sold “just” 88.7 million copies, compared to CoD’s 400 million.
Microsoft has repeatedly insisted that Call of Duty would not become an Xbox exclusive, as recently as yesterday explaining how Activision’s behemoth would remain cross-platform, while Elder Scrolls will not, although based on the utter nonsense that Starfield is a precarious new IP and, um, Fallout 76 is “niche.” So, you can understand why Sony might not take them at their word.
At the same time, not selling CoD to half your current player-base would be incredibly stupid, and while some people might shift from PlayStation to Xbox to keep playing the annual shooter, it isn’t going to be 200 million.
Oh, honestly, I don’t care. The stupid, childish nonsense is making a lot of lawyers incredibly rich, unimaginable millions being spaffed away while the company’s customers are wondering how they’re going to keep the heating on this winter. But I really do hope that so much of these ridiculous “woe is us” statements come back to bite both console makers on the arse.