Sony has submitted new documents regarding Microsoft’s planned acquisition of Activision Blizzard and has expressed concern to the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority about Call of Duty potentially being sabotaged on PlayStation. In a hypothetical situation cited by Sony (via The Verge), the PlayStation manufacturer said that it was worried that Microsoft could release a Call of Duty game on PlayStation that has poorer quality and performance when compared to the Xbox version.
“Microsoft might release a PlayStation version of Call of Duty where bugs and errors emerge only on the game’s final level or after later updates,” Sony explained in its new documents. “Even if such degradations could be swiftly detected, any remedy would likely come too late, by which time the gaming community would have lost confidence in PlayStation as a go-to venue to play Call of Duty. Indeed, as Modern Warfare II attests, Call of Duty is most often purchased in just the first few weeks of release. If it became known that the game’s performance on PlayStation was worse than on Xbox, Call of Duty gamers could decide to switch to Xbox, for fear of playing their favorite game at a second-class or less competitive venue.”
Sony didn’t outright accuse Microsoft of plotting intentional sabotage, but the company does fear that its rival could strategically derail the momentum of Call of Duty on PlayStation. This could allegedly be done by ignoring features specific to that platform or by “restricting, degrading, or not investing in the multiplayer experience on PlayStation,” thus making the franchise play better on Xbox by comparison.
While Sony is also afraid that having Call of Duty available through Xbox Game Pass will hurt its chances to offer the game through its own PlayStation Plus service, Microsoft struck back at this criticism in its own filing to the CMA. “Any Call of Duty game in a Microsoft multi-game subscription is eligible for inclusion in Sony’s multi-game subscription service, at the same time and for the same duration,” Microsoft explained in its response.
Call of Duty has been the primary sticking point for Sony as the Activision Blizzard acquisition has been analyzed by government groups, with Microsoft stating numerous times that it has offered Sony a 10-year deal to keep the franchise on PlayStation. This same deal was offered and accepted by Nintendo, and Microsoft isn’t ready to divest itself of Call of Duty to push the deal forward.
EU regulators are reportedly ready to approve the deal, while the UK CMA released a provisional report that included concerns that Microsoft will need to address. The Federal Trade Commission has sued Microsoft in the US, and the case is pending.