During the ongoing Federal Trade Commission (FTC) v. Microsoft trial, an email exchange between Sony’s PlayStation chief Jim Ryan and Microsoft’s Phil Spencer has come to light, suggesting that Sony does not view Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard as an attempt to create Xbox exclusives.
The emails were revealed on June 22, 2023, with Ryan stating in one, “It is not an exclusivity play at all. They’re thinking bigger than that, and they have the cash to make moves like this.” These comments were made in contrast to Sony’s public stance, where it expressed concerns that Microsoft might try to make popular titles such as Call of Duty Xbox exclusives or undermine PlayStation versions of the games.
Further email exchanges also reveal the negotiation dynamics regarding the Call of Duty franchise. Microsoft proposed to keep the franchise on PlayStation for three years following the end of the current Activision and Sony agreement. Ryan, however, dismissed this offer as “inadequate on many levels”. Instead, he emphasized that all Activision games should be available on PlayStation, irrespective of their release dates or franchise classification.
In a later response, Phil Spencer reassured Jim Ryan that Microsoft intends to maintain Activision console titles on Sony, including future versions in the Call of Duty franchise, through December 31, 2027. Spencer highlighted that Microsoft believes keeping these titles on Sony, as they did with Minecraft, is beneficial for both the industry and gamers.
These revelations come amid ongoing regulatory scrutiny over the proposed acquisition. Regulatory bodies like the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and the European Commission have expressed concerns over different aspects of the acquisition. The FTC’s case, on the other hand, focuses primarily on the potential harm to console, cloud gaming, and multi-game subscriptions if Microsoft were to turn Activision games into Xbox exclusives.
Microsoft’s ongoing battle to acquire Activision Blizzard, a deal worth approximately $69 billion, has been fraught with challenges. Microsoft recently claimed in court documents that it has “lost the console wars” to competitors Sony and Nintendo, with Xbox sales consistently ranking third in the market. As a result, Microsoft argues that it needs the merger to remain a viable competitor.
The FTC is seeking a preliminary injunction to halt the acquisition until an evidentiary hearing in August. Should the injunction pass, it could potentially force a renegotiation of the merger. The FTC v. Microsoft trial continues, with further updates expected on the historic proposed merger’s progression.
The reactions on social media have been swift and varied, with some users questioning Sony’s demands and others commenting on the unexpected negotiation dynamics revealed in the emails. One Twitter user, @socialwill, translated Sony’s stance as: “You are going to marry my ex, but I have rights to them forever.” This public discourse highlights the complexities of such major acquisitions and the potential ripple effects they can have on the gaming industry at large.