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Call of Duty is still at the center of Microsoft’s fight to acquire Activision

Microsoft says pulling the franchise from PlayStation ‘makes zero business sense’

A Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 soldier steps off a helicopter while holding a shotgun Image: Infinity Ward/Activision

Sony and Microsoft’s war of words over the Xbox maker’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard continued on Thursday, with both companies exchanging statements about Microsoft’s commitment to keeping Call of Duty on PlayStation.

The public back-and-forth occurred just as reports suggest that the European Union may increase its scrutiny on Microsoft’s deal. A few weeks ago, U.K. regulators announced that they would look closely into the deal, concerned that could unfairly limit competition. Now, according to a report from the Financial Times, the EU has similar fears and will also move toward a larger, more formal investigation.

In a statement to GamesIndustry.biz on Thursday, Sony praised the EU’s stance: “By giving Microsoft control of Activision games like Call of Duty, this deal would have major negative implications for gamers and the future of the gaming industry,” the company said. “We want to guarantee PlayStation gamers continue to have the highest quality gaming experience, and we appreciate the [U.K. Competition and Markets Authority]’s focus on protecting gamers.”

Microsoft responded archly with: “It makes zero business sense for Microsoft to remove Call of Duty from PlayStation given its market leading console position.”

While the statement is largely similar to others Microsoft has made regarding Call of Duty, the deference to Sony as the leading console company is somewhat new. It appears that Microsoft’s messaging strategy is to present itself as the smaller market player, making its acquisition of Activision not a threat to Sony or broader competition. Of course, the statement leaves open the question of what would happen if Sony were not the leading console presence.

Despite all this posturing, the deal remains in limbo until investigators from the EU, UK, and United States have had a chance to thoroughly examine the two companies and the marketplace, and either approve the acquisition, or create a set of concessions for Microsoft to accept.

Meanwhile, Call of Duty is approaching the release of two new titles with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Warzone 2.0, which headlined the franchise’s Call of Duty Next streaming event on Thursday, and are set for release later this year.

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