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Microsoft tells UK's CMA Sony could create Call of Duty competitor in 10 years

God of Warzone.

Artwork from Crash Bandicoot, Call of Duty, Tony Hawk, and Overwatch, displayed in four columns running left to right.
Image credit: Activision Blizzard

In a heavily redacted response to the UK's Competition and Markets Authority relating to its proposed $69BN USD acquisition of Activision Blizzard, Microsoft has insisted Sony would be able to create its own Call of Duty alternative within the space of 10 years.

Microsoft's newly published document has been submitted in response to the CMA's recent Remedies Hearing, discussing stipulations the regulator may insist upon before it's prepared to approve the deal. And while much has been redacted, it predominantly presents Microsoft's arguments around why its proposed 10-year deal with Sony to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation, and its signed agreements with Nvidia, should be sufficient to satisfy the CMA's concerns.

Among all this, though, is the nugget from Microsoft that 10 years should be ample time for Sony to whip up a Call of Duty competitor of its own - while glossing over the rather obvious fact Activision's shooter has had over 20 years to build the kind of brand recognition that's turned it into the juggernaut gaming franchise it is today.

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"Microsoft considers that a period of 10 years is sufficient for Sony, as a leading publisher and console platform, to develop alternatives to CoD," the company tells the CMA. "The 10-year year term will extend into the next console generation [Redacted]."

"Moreover," it adds, "the practical effect of the remedy will go beyond the 10-year period, since games downloaded in the final year of the remedy can continue to be played for the lifetime of that console (and beyond, with backwards compatibility)."

It is, of course, tempting to read that as tacit admission Microsoft is indeed planning to whisk Call of Duty away for an eternity of Xbox exclusivity once the 10 years is through, but it quickly follows up by once again insisting such a move wouldn't make sense.

"CoD is an entertainment franchise which is already nearly 20 years old," it writes. "[Redacted], Microsoft will need to secure the broadest distribution of the franchise and will be heavily incentivised to keep it on the PlayStation platform [Redacted]. Microsoft considers that having maintained CoD on PlayStation and grown its player base on Nintendo, GeForce Now and other cloud gaming platforms for a decade, it will have no incentive, or indeed ability, to take CoD exclusive."

The CMA is set to announce its decision on Microsoft's proposed Activision Blizzard buyout on 26th April, while the EU - which is currently seeking feedback from rivals and customers - will now finalise its decision on 22nd May. Microsoft recently won the ability to examine a treasure trove of internal documents from within Sony to help its ongoing case with the FTC.

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