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What just happened? Microsoft has confirmed that it will not be taking the Call of Duty series off the PlayStation should its $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard be given the go-ahead by regulators. The FPS franchise's future has been a cause of concern among PlayStation owners who feared Microsoft would make it an Xbox/PC exclusive, but this is the clearest commitment Microsoft has made to the series staying on Sony's machines.
In a new podcast interview with Justine and Jenna Ezarik on Same Brain, the YouTubers asked Xbox boss Phil Spencer about Microsoft's acquisition of Activision Blizzard and whether it might mean some games would no longer be available on PlayStation.
"We're not taking Call of Duty from PlayStation. I know that—which isn't exactly what you asked, but just to like punch that one in the nose, that's not our intent," Spencer said. "Our intent is not to do that, and as long as there's a PlayStation out there to ship to, our intent is that we'd continue to ship Call of Duty on PlayStation, similar to what we've done with Minecraft since we've owned that."
"We've expanded the places where people can play Minecraft, we haven't reduced the places, and it's been good. It's been good for the Minecraft community—my opinion—and I want to do the same as we think about where Call of Duty can go over the years."
Spencer last week hinted to The Wall Street Journal's tech conference (via The Verge) that there are plans to bring Call of Duty to the Nintendo Switch and keep it available on other platforms, just as Microsoft has done with Minecraft.
Earlier this year, Spencer said Microsoft was committed to keeping Call of Duty on PlayStation for several more years beyond the current deal Sony has with Activision, which covers the series' next two releases following the recently launched Modern Warfare II. PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan wasn't impressed by the offer, calling it "inadequate on many levels."
Microsoft's intentions for Activision Blizzard's games have been a sticking point for regulators examining the deal. The UK's Competition and Markets Authority expressed concerns over Microsoft "withholding or degrading" Activision Blizzard's titles from other consoles or subscription services if the acquisition completes. The issue led to the watchdog's extended stage 2 phase probe last month.
Microsoft told the regulator that Sony is significantly exaggerating the CoD series' importance, and losing a single franchise would not challenge the Japanese giant's dominance. It added that making Call of Duty available on Game Pass doesn't guarantee it will sell more Xbox consoles. But Microsoft tried to assuage worries that it would make CoD Xbox/PC-only by highlighting how much revenue would be put at risk if it carried out such a move.
Spencer seems to leave little doubt about Microsoft's intentions for Call of Duty, but then he wouldn't be the first executive to break a promise. Assuming the deal is approved, Microsoft will officially acquire Activision Blizzard by the end of the company's fiscal year, which is June 2023.