Sony has said Microsoft’s “true strategy” behind the proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard is to make the PlayStation “be like Nintendo” and not compete in the 18-rated shooter space.
The comments were made in a just published response to the UK’s competition and markets regulator’s decision to expand its investigation into the proposed takeover.
In its 22-page response, Sony Interactive Entertainment argues that if the deal goes through, users would leave the PlayStation ecosystem, Microsoft could raise Xbox prices, and indie developers would be hurt.
As has been the trend with the regulatory back-and-forth, much of the doc focuses on Call of Duty and the perceived damage Sony says the Activision Blizzard deal would cause, if the flagship franchise were made Xbox-exclusive.
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In one section of its statement, the platform holder singles out comments made by Microsoft that other platforms have thrived without Call of Duty, including the Nintendo Switch. In its latest response, Sony says this statement “ignores the facts”.
SIE argues that Nintendo’s strategy is differentiated from the PlayStation and Xbox because it doesn’t rely on 18-rated shooter franchises, games that Microsoft will have virtual sole ownership of if the deal with Activision is approved by global regulators.
In that sense, he argues that Microsoft’s “real strategy” with the Activision Blizzard deal is to make PlayStation like Nintendo, as it doesn’t compete in this space.
“Microsoft says Nintendo’s differentiated model demonstrates that PlayStation doesn’t need Call of Duty to compete effectively. But this reveals Microsoft’s true strategy,” reads the SIE statement. “Microsoft wants PlayStation to become like Nintendo, so that it is a less close and effective competitor to Xbox.
“After the transaction, Xbox would become the one-stop shop for all of the best-selling shooter franchises on consoles (Call of Duty, Halo, Gears of War, +Doom, Overwatch), as the Decision explains, and thus be free from serious pressure competitive”.
SIE’s statement goes on to say that Activision’s games, “particularly Call of Duty,” are “fundamental” to PlayStation.
“The franchise is firmly ingrained in the psyche of gamers – every installment since Call of Duty was first released in 2003 has steadily climbed the ranks,” he says, going on to share redacted figures of the share of his audience he believes it would lose to Xbox if CoD were to go exclusive.
“Disregarding these facts, Microsoft is arguing that Nintendo succeeded without access to Call of Duty,” he continued. “This misses the point. The decision identifies a large body of evidence showing that Nintendo offers a differentiated experience compared to Xbox and PlayStation because it focuses on family-friendly games that are very different from PEGI 18 FPS games like Call of Duty.
“This is supported by Microsoft’s internal documents, which, according to the CMA, show that: ‘In general, Microsoft’s internal documents track PlayStation more closely than Nintendo, with Nintendo often absent from any internal competitive assessments.’
While the Activision deal has been approved by regulators in Saudi Arabia and Brazil, the UK’s competition and markets regulator recently extended its investigation into a second phase. It is in the process of inviting members of the public to share their views on the acquisition before making its final decision by March 1, 2023.
In his explanation of his decision to approve the acquisition, Brazilian CADE said he agreed with Microsoft’s claim that PlayStation didn’t need Call of Duty to remain competitive.
“As noted, Nintendo does not currently rely on any Activision Blizzard content to compete in the marketplace,” he said.