PlayStation calls Xbox’s Call of Duty agreement “inadequate”

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PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan has publicly spoken out about Microsoft’s plans for potentially making the Call of Duty franchise a platform exclusive following a looming acquisition of Activision Blizzard. While Xbox boss Phil Spencer has seemingly offered an olive branch to Sony to assure them, Ryan has now called the offer “inadequate on many levels.”

Seeking to assure the various government bodies that are scrutinising the vast game company acquisition, Spencer last week provided a statement to The Verge saying they had given Sony a signed agreement that Call of Duty would remain on PlayStation “with feature and content parity, for at least several more years beyond the current Sony contract, an offer that goes well beyond typical gaming industry agreements.”

With PlayStation objecting to the deal in every forum available to it, Jim Ryan has now countered this, saying that Xbox had only offered an additional three years of such parity. It’s understood that prior content agreements would keep Call of Duty on PlayStation for the next three game releases – Modern Warfare II and the next two games – feasibly concluding the deal in 2024. Three more years would keep Call of Duty on PlayStation with content parity until 2027, right around the time that Sony and Microsoft might be considering for the PlayStation 6 and Xbox Super Bojangles X|Y|Z (or whatever they call it) release.

Speaking to, Ryan stated, “I hadn’t intended to comment on what I understood to be a private business discussion, but I feel the need to set the record straight because Phil Spencer brought this into the public forum.

“Microsoft has only offered for Call of Duty to remain on PlayStation for three years after the current agreement between Activision and Sony ends. After almost 20 years of Call of Duty on PlayStation, their proposal was inadequate on many levels and failed to take account of the impact on our gamers. We want to guarantee PlayStation gamers continue to have the highest quality Call of Duty experience, and Microsoft’s proposal undermines this principle.”

Of course, context is important. Both Microsoft and Sony can be telling the truth in this scenario. We’re rarely privy to the contracts and agreements between publishers and manufacturers, but from the history of the various exclusive content agreements we’ve seen in the past, Microsoft could reasonably say that agreeing to six games with full content parity does go beyond the kinds of extra modes, the month-long DLC exclusivity, and bonus missions that have been agreed previously, those tending to run for 3 or 5 years. Microsoft might well intend to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation but have those exclusive modes and other things for themselves on Xbox. Then again, it’s so far away that Call of Duty might not have the same cultural relevance it does today, so a cast iron agreement wouldn’t be suitable.

This spat is going to rumble on for a good while yet, as we wait for governments to decide whether or not to approve the deal.


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  1. Something tells me the next XBox is sadly not going to be called “Xbox Super Bojangles X|Y|Z”. Which is a shame. I think they’re just going to say “This naming thing isn’t working out, and everyone keeps making fun of it. Let’s just call it XBox”. There have been cases where people have gone back to the original name for something, just to confuse things and get away from all the baggage of the later, individually named versions. It’s happened in games and films before.

    Or they might just go weird and call it “Jeffrey” instead.

    As for CoD, they’ve gone from “we’ve spent massive amounts of money to keep it available for everyone” to “it’ll be on everything for 3 years after the existing agreements because we want to sound good while the deal is going through”. And if Sony don’t like that new arrangement? By the time the existing agreements end (in 2024 or whenever), the deal could have gone through, and MS can turn around and say “We offered another 3 years, but Sony said no, so no new CoDs for you”.

    You don’t spend $70bn and let the competition have anything if you can avoid it. Although there’s the PR side to account for as well, but that’s a simple case of how many PR points do you gain from having a big game on GamePass, minus the points you lose for stopping the largest audience for the game playing it in future, plus the points from “We offered it but Sony said no”, minus the points for lying about the whole thing in the first place.

    Sounds like 3 more PlayStation CoDs and that’s it then.

    • Xbox Asterix and Xbox Obelix.

      Honestly, I think it’s Microsoft turning up with a relatively long-term agreement extension – content exclusivity deals have tended to be for 5 years, from what I’m aware of – and Sony being in the position where they have to object to every offer outside of a full guarantee of eternal cross-platform gaming. I do feel that Minecraft has shown they can be pragmatic with cross-platform, so I’d expect 3 more PS CODs, then it’s Xbox and Game Pass with bonus game modes and cosmetics and timed early access and stuff for at least the rest of the generation. PS is still the biggest earner for Activision games.

      • Can you really compare CoD with Minecraft? Minecraft has sold 200m+ at £13. So £2.6bn worth of sales. (Plus the spinoff games). Or about $3bn, or 20% more than MS paid for it.

        That’s about 3 CoDs worth of sales. Or 4% of what MS want to pay for Activision Blizzard.

        MS may be hoping that by the time the current deal ends, Game Pass is such a success that PS sales are less important. Then they can just not bother with PS versions. I doubt they’ll be happy for things to carry on as they are right now. 2 to 1 sales advantage for the PS5 over X|S? Getting close to all games being sold digitally? That’d make 20% of all CoD money going straight to Sony. (Assuming Sony take that 30% figure that gets thrown about)

        At best, we may get yearly CoDs for the PS5. But there’s no way that’ll carry on with the next generation. No PS6 versions, it’ll just be PC and the XBox Bernard. Or whatever it’s called ;)

  2. Sony should use this time to make their own Call of Duty style game, by the time the deal ends they’ll have their own big fps game.

    • MS should use the time to make their own big fps game. It’d save them billions.

      Oh, wait. They tried that. How’d that work out for them?

      Whatever you think of the CoD games (fairly fun and decidedly “competent” would be my view), they’re enormously successful. Just saying they should “make their own” is completely ignoring that and the fact that even MS seem to think “we can’t, so let’s just buy it instead”.

      • Well they didn’t just buy CoD, so a lot of your response is not valid.

        If Sony with all their great developers and huge market share don’t think its worth doing their own Call of Duty clone, that is strange to me.

    • Time to roll out the Killzone IP!

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