PlayStation boss Jim Ryan has spoken out against Microsoft's offer to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation for "at least several more years" beyond Sony's existing agreement with publisher Activision Blizzard, calling the deal "inadequate on many levels" - despite Microsoft's insistence it went "well beyond typical gaming industry agreements".
It's the latest shot fired in an increasingly public back and forth between the two companies as governmental scrutiny of Microsoft's proposed $69bn USD acquisition of Activision Blizzard grows, particularly in relation to its impact on other gaming platforms. The UK's Competition and Markets Authority, for instance, recently said the deal would give rise to the "realistic prospect of a substantial lessening of competition in gaming consoles, multi-game subscription services, and cloud gaming services."
It's in this climate that Xbox boss Phil Spencer last week attempted to placate concerns it might be looking to make the hugely popular Call of Duty series - which the CMA called "important and capable of making a material difference to the success of rivals' gaming platforms" - an Xbox exclusive if the acquisition gained approval, insisting that it had "provided a signed agreement to Sony [in January] to guarantee Call of Duty on PlayStation, with feature and content parity, for at least several more years beyond the current Sony contract".
This, it said, was "an offer that goes well beyond typical gaming industry agreements".
Now, though, Sony boss Jim Ryan has hit back, telling GamesIndustry.biz , "I hadn't intended to comment on what I understood to be a private business discussion, but I feel the need to set the record straight because Phil Spencer brought this into the public forum".
Ryan then added a little more detail to Spencer's previous comments, saying "Microsoft has only offered for Call of Duty to remain on PlayStation for three years after the current agreement between Activision and Sony ends". While the terms of Sony's current agreement aren't public, it's believed to account for the next three Call of Duty games, including this year's Modern Warfare 2. If Call of Duty sticks to its traditional annual release schedule, that could mean an end to Call of Duty on PlayStation as early as 2027.
"After almost 20 years of Call of Duty on PlayStation," Ryan continued, "[Microsoft's] proposal was inadequate on many levels and failed to take account of the impact on our gamers. We want to guarantee PlayStation gamers continue to have the highest quality Call of Duty experience, and Microsoft's proposal undermines this principle."
I've asked Microsoft if it has a response to Ryan's latest comments.
Assuming Microsoft is able to clear all regulatory hurdles, its acquisition of Activision Blizzard is expected to complete next summer.