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What just happened? Microsoft isn't holding back in its war of wars with Sony over the former's attempted acquisition of Activision Blizzard. Head of Xbox Phil Spencer says its rival is the "one major opposer to the deal," and it all comes down to Sony wanting to protect its dominance in consoles by making Xbox "smaller."
Sony has made no secret about its objections to Microsoft's $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard, mostly over fears that the Call of Duty series will eventually become an Xbox/PC exclusive. The Redmond firm has repeatedly claimed this won't happen—Spencer once said the series would remain on PlayStation "as long as there's a PlayStation out there"—and Microsoft recently confirmed it offered a 10-year deal to keep the franchise on PlayStation and other platforms, including the Nintendo Switch; a proposal that Microsoft reportedly called "misleading" diversion tactics.
Spencer seemed less friendly toward Sony in his appearance on the Second Request podcast. "Sony is trying to protect its dominance on the console. The way they grow is by making Xbox smaller," he said.
"[Sony] has a very different view of the industry than we do. They don't ship their games day and date on PC, they do not put their games into their subscription when they launch their games," Spencer added. "Sony is leading the dialogue around why the deal shouldn't go through."
"The largest console maker in the world raising an objection about the one franchise that we've said will continue to ship on the platform. It's a deal that benefits customers through choice and access."
Microsoft's president and vice-chair Brad Smith recently wrote a guest post in the Wall Street Journal in which he noted that when it comes to console gaming, the Xbox sits behind the PlayStation and Nintendo Switch, and that Microsoft has no presence in the mobile game industry, which generated 50% of the overall global gaming revenue, or $92.2 billion, in 2022.
The future of Activision Blizzard's games, including CoD, World of Warcraft, and Diablo, has been a contentious issue since the proposed acquisition was announced in January. Microsoft recently compared Sony's objections to the deal to Blockbuster complaining about the rise of Netflix.
Sony might not have to worry about PlayStation losing the Call of Duty series at some point in the future. The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced on Thursday that it would sue to block Microsoft's acquisition of Activision. The agency put forward many of the same arguments Sony gave to the UK's monopoly watchdog.
Microsoft has a good chance of winning the FTC case, but the deal is still being investigated by European regulators and the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which could delay the acquisition's closure date beyond the expected summer 2023 date.