Remember Phil Spencer telling everyone he’d be open to “a longer term commitment (opens in new tab)” with Sony over access to Call of Duty? Well, looks like he meant it. Sources tell Reuters (opens in new tab)that Microsoft is gearing up to offer concessions to EU regulators regarding its acquisition of Activision Blizzard, consisting mainly of a 10-year offer to Sony to keep CoD on PlayStation.
Microsoft has already talked publicly about a deal like this before. Last week, it came out that Microsoft had apparently offered Sony a 10-year CoD contract (opens in new tab) directly, which Sony refused to comment on. It now seems that Microsoft is willing to put that contract to the regulators themselves, letting them decide if it would be sufficient to settle their jitters.
It could very well be successful. The regulatory pressure that Microsoft has encountered so far has largely revolved around its competitors’ access to CoD, rather than broader questions of industry consolidation and monopolisation. Both the UK and EU watchdogs initiated deeper, “Phase 2” investigations of the deal amid a lot of verbiage about CoD, while the FTC is rumoured to be preparing a challenge (opens in new tab) to the acquisition soon. Even Brazilian regulators, who approved the acquisition, said it might negatively impact Sony’s access to CoD, they just thought it was more Sony’s problem than Brazil’s (opens in new tab).
Microsoft will need to submit its concessions ahead of EU regulators’ January deadline. Officials are currently drawing up a list of complaints regarding the deal for publication at the beginning of next year. If Microsoft’s concessions manage to head them off at the pass, though, it could significantly shorten the approval process.
Although it might feel like Microsoft has been in the process of acquiring Activision for decades, it was actually only announced in January this year (opens in new tab). Since then, we’ve all been trapped in a long back-and-forth between Microsoft, Sony, and myriad national regulators. With 16 countries investigating the deal—and with only Brazil, Saudi Arabia, and Serbia having cleared it so far—we’re probably in for a lot more lawyering before all’s said and done.