Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision is progressing supposedly at a raid rate, and is expected to close sometime next year, with the deal currently being studied for approval by authorities around the world. During that process in Brazil, Sony was one among several major gaming companies to provide its official thoughts on the Xbox-Activision deal, the majority of which was focused on the stature of Call of Duty in the industry and how its potential exclusivity could harm the market.
Sony calls Call of Duty “an essential game” and says “has no rival”, so much so that the franchise’s popularity influences users’ choice of console.
“According to a 2019 study, ‘The importance of Call of Duty to entertainment, in general, is indescribable,’” Sony said in its response (via VGC). “The brand was the only video game IP to break into the top 10 of all entertainment brands among fans, joining powerhouses such as Star Wars, Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings.”
The company went on to stress the unparalleled success and popularity of Activision’s first person shooter series, stating that given how entrenched the series is popular culture as a whole, even if another developer were able to match the budget and resources that Call of Duty gets, they would still be unable to compete.
“Call of Duty is so popular that it influences users’ choice of console, and its network of loyal users is so entrenched that even if a competitor had the budget to develop a similar product, it would not be able to rival it,” Sony said. “Each annual Call of Duty release takes approximately 3-5 years to develop. As Activision releases one Call of Duty game per year, this equates to an annual investment of hundreds of millions of dollars.
“Approximately 1,200 people work on each version and another 1,500 are involved in publishing and distribution. Thus, Call of Duty alone has more developers than most game companies employ across its entire development portfolio, even AAA studios.
“Also, given its plans to recruit 2,000 additional developers by 2021, Activision probably expects Call of Duty to become even more successful in the future.
“No other developer can devote the same level of resources and expertise in game development. Even if they could, Call of Duty is overly entrenched, so that no rival – no matter how relevant – can catch up.”
Finally, Sony also spoke about the series’ financial stature, pointing out that Call of Duty eclipses its competitors’ performances by nearly every metric, and even in an underperforming year – like 2021 with Call of Duty: Vanguard – the series still outperforms most other games.
“It is synonymous with first-person shooter games and essentially defines that category,” the company said. “This is also demonstrated by player engagement on social media: Call of Duty has over 24 million followers on Facebook versus 7 million for Battlefield; and over 12 million followers on Instagram versus 2 million for Battlefield.
“To say the least, players would be unlikely to switch to alternative games, as they would lose that familiarity, those skills, and even the friends they made playing the game.
“Even in weaker years like 2021, Call of Duty still managed to outperform most other games by a considerable margin. Call of Duty: Vanguard (2021), for example, was widely regarded as weaker than previous years’ titles, but was still one of the best-selling games of 2021. In other words, even in a bad year, players remain loyal to the brand and continue to buy the game.”
Interestingly, Microsoft, for its part, has stressed on numerous occasions that even after the Activision acquisition is complete, Call of Duty will continue to be released for PlayStation. Xbox plans to honour all existing agreements and contractual obligations for any current and future Activision titles, and has also said that future Activision games will continue to launch for PlayStation and Nintendo platforms even beyond existing agreements.
On a number of occasions, Xbox has also expressed that it doesn’t intend to turn games with big communities across multiple platforms into Xbox exclusives. That said, you can probably expect at least some future Activision Blizzard games to launch for Xbox and PC only.