Microsoft is on something of a buying spree. After picking up game publisher ZeniMax in 2021, Microsoft is now working toward a massive $68.7 billion takeover of Activision Blizzard. The publisher’s games will no doubt beef up Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass service, but Sony won’t be left entirely in the cold. A new report says that Microsoft will continue releasing Call of Duty games on PlayStation… at least for now.
Currently, Microsoft expects to complete the Activision Blizzard acquisition in its 2023 fiscal year, ending in mid-2023. Microsoft could also seal the deal earlier, which would leave it in a sticky situation. According to Bloomberg, Activision Blizzard has contracts with Sony that guarantee several more Call of Duty games on its platform. These titles are some of the most popular (and profitable) in the world right now, so losing access would be a major blow.
The report claims that Activision Blizzard is using developer Infinity Ward for this year’s CoD game, and the 2023 iteration will go back to Treyarch. Both of these games will most likely come to PlayStation. Phil Spencer, Microsoft’s gaming division CEO, says that he had already spoken to Sony representatives to commit to honoring any current contracts. Bloomberg says the deal expires in 2023, so these may be the last mainline Call of Duty games for Sony. The report also says Activision Blizzard is working on a new version of its online Battle Royale Call of Duty: Warzone that will come to PlayStation.
If you’re curious about Microsoft’s future plans, look no further than the ZeniMax deal. When that transaction was announced, Microsoft was happy to maintain all current agreements for timed exclusives on Sony’s platform. However, Microsoft changed its tune as soon as it fulfilled those commitments. The hotly anticipated Elder Scrolls VI will not come to PlayStation, remaining exclusive to Xbox and PC. Call of Duty and other Activision Blizzard titles could suffer a similar fate.
We’re seeing a snowball effect in gaming just like we have in other forms of digital media. For example, Disney has spent the last decade hoovering up studios like Lucasfilm and Fox, giving it control over even more content. Almost every rights-holder has its own streaming service as well, creating silos of exclusive content. Exclusives have always been part of gaming, but the divisions may be deepening as the industry consolidates.