According to Sony, the Battlefield franchise cannot compete with COD: Microsoft has stated that it plans to purchase Activision Blizzard in 2023 for $68.7 billion. Since then, regulators have been hard at work, in no small part because such a merger would be the largest in the industry’s history and because several of Activision Blizzard’s franchises—Call of Duty in particular—have drawn the most attention.
Not all of the news for Microsoft is negative, though; just because authorities are looking at something doesn’t imply they’ll take any action against the company, and the purchase has already been approved in other jurisdictions. But the European Union is looking into it, and it has been paying special attention to huge tech mergers recently, and the UK Competition and Markets Authority has announced it is beginning an extensive probe. Sony, Microsoft’s competitor, has now submitted its objections against the merger.
Different warning shots have been thrown across the bow as this process has dragged on, and Sony’s most recent filings largely restate what we’ve already learned. Sony, if we’re being honest, just wants to make this acquisition as tough for Microsoft as possible, and will say pretty much anything to do so. Remember that the information contained in such a file has been drafted by Sony’s legal department: This is not Jim Ryan shouting from the rooftops in a tank top.
Sony is focusing heavily on Call of Duty because it anticipates that Microsoft will attempt to make it an exclusive. Sony claims it doesn’t trust Microsoft’s promises to keep the game on PlayStation and points to the company’s track record of buying up development companies that then went on to make PC and Xbox-only games as evidence. Sony, however, goes further, arguing that no other game can match or imitate what Call of Duty is doing.
As a result, Sony’s legal team has made the unexpected decision to go after Battlefield. “Competing publishers simply lack the means and skills to match it. As an illustration, Electronic Arts (one of the largest third-party developers after Activision) has spent a lot of time and effort on the Battlefield series in an attempt to create a competitor to Call of Duty.”
So, how has that been functioning thus far? “Despite parallels between Battlefield and Call of Duty and EA’s history of generating profitable AAA series (including FIFA, Mass Effect, Need for Speed, and Star Wars: Battlefront), the Battlefield franchise has failed to keep up. There have been over 400 million copies of Call of Duty sold by August 2021, but just 88.7 million copies of Battlefield have been purchased.”
Not even 88.7 million? Those wretches. You get this when a lawyer reviews video games: Unlike annualized series like FIFA or COD, Mass Effect, and Star Wars: Battlefront does not release on a predictable schedule. Moreover, DICE, better known as the creators of Battlefield, are behind Star Wars: Battlefront, which is both ironic and amusing. I guess you shouldn’t notify the authorities, huh?
Sony’s shocking diss at Battlefield is startling only because it goes against the company’s usual platform-holder stance of superiority. It’s not that what’s being claimed is completely false—after all, nobody can deny that some series sell more than others—but it does sound like Sony is putting its cards on the table in a way it normally wouldn’t.
The document contains no new information aside from some nebulous references to PlayStation 6 in the context of Microsoft’s agreement to keep Activision Blizzard’s games on Sony systems until 2027. In other words, by the time SIE released its next-gen console (presumably sometime around [REDACTED]), it would no longer be able to play Call of Duty or any other Activision game. So the wait for the PS6 is another decade?
Activision Despite having received approval from Blizzard’s shareholders, the Microsoft acquisition still needs to clear a number of regulatory hurdles due to its massive size. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is one of the entities conducting research, though a lawyer we spoke with indicated that he thought the purchase will be approved in the end.