Call of Duty will join Xbox Game Pass, but still launch on PlayStation the same day

Xbox head Phil Spencer has released a new blog post detailing Call of Duty’s plans and other Activision Blizzard franchises, following today’s announcement from the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority that it will scrutinize the deal in detail.

As you’d expect, Call of Duty, Overwatch, and Diablo will be available via Xbox Game Pass, Spencer said, if and when Microsoft’s $68 billion Activision Blizzard purchase is completed.

Spencer also provided a guarantee that Xbox “is committed to making the same version of Call of Duty available on PlayStation the same day the game launches elsewhere.”

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“We will continue to enable people to play with each other across platforms and across devices” — the proposal being to expect Call of Duty to interrupt without interruption, Spencer continued.

Of course, the timing of this blog post is designed to coincide with this morning’s decision by the CMA that it will now refer the Microsoft-Activision deal for a more detailed investigation, which cited concerns about some of the issues Spencer discusses here.

Spencer’s blog makes several references to “choice” – for example, choosing to play Call of Duty via Game Pass, or alternatively on PlayStation – likely to counter any suggestion that it is actively hindering competition.

This morning, the CMA wrote that Activision games — and “Call of Duty in particular” were “significant and able to make a fundamental difference to the success of competitors’ game platforms,” ​​PlayStation in particular.

The CMA has stated concerns about the continued availability of Call of Duty on PlayStation, and that after the merger, Xbox could use its ownership of the franchise “to harm the competitiveness of its competitors” by offering it across its subscription.

Spencer’s blog does not mention the CMA in the UK by name, but does provide a clear response – as well as Microsoft – to today’s news in reference to its ongoing work with regulators.

“We will continue to engage with regulators in a spirit of transparency and openness as they review this acquisition,” Spencer wrote. “We respect and welcome the difficult questions being asked.”

Spencer also makes the frank note that Microsoft isn’t the only company currently involved in mergers and acquisitions — by far.

“Today’s gaming industry is strong and dynamic. Industry leaders, including Tencent and Sony, continue to expand their deep and comprehensive libraries of games as well as other entertainment brands and franchises, enjoyed by gamers everywhere.

“We believe a comprehensive review will show that the combination of Microsoft and Activision Blizzard will benefit the industry and players,” Spencer concluded.

In separate comments, Microsoft President Brad Smith said the company was “ready to work with the CMA on next steps and to address any of its concerns.”

“Sony, as the industry leader, says it’s concerned about Call of Duty, but we’ve said we’re committed to making the same game available on the same day on both Xbox and PlayStation,” Smith continued. “We want people to have more access to games, not less.”

Meanwhile, Activision Blizzard President Bobby Kotick stated that he “still believes in[s] The deal is likely to close ‘before June 2023.

“This appears to be a strong act of antitrust protection by the CMA, particularly in relation to the proposal to separate subscription and cloud services in their respective markets,” video game industry lawyer Richard Hoegg told Eurogamer today. However, given the current political environment in both digital market access and ‘big tech’ in general, it is not an environment that Microsoft would likely have failed to anticipate.

“Despite the complexity, I would not expect this to scuttle the deal, and UK concessions will likely be regulated to reflect settlement/approval ordinance negotiations likely to be or will otherwise work with other key regulatory authorities. You still see a deal. It expires sometime next year.”

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