Sony’s weak argument against Microsoft owning Call of Duty has failed

By Lee Brady,

Sony’s case that Activision’s Call of Duty was too big for Microsoft has failed to convince the regulators in Brazil. Sony’s argument was an attempt to prevent Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard King (ABK).

Sony's weak argument to the Brazilian regulatory body overseeing Microsoft's acquisition of Call of Duty owners Activision Blizzard has ultimately failed. Brazil's regulatory body, CADE, has green-lit the deal and its summary of the case echoes the many reasons we knew Sony's argument against Call of Duty being 'too big' for Xbox would fail.

codsonyWell, this worked like a charm.

The reasons why Sony's argument against Xbox's Call of Duty exclusivity failed

The latest update comes courtesy of VGC, and while the fight against Microsoft acquiring Call of Duty for Xbox via Activision Blizzard continues to rage in the EU, it's hard not to see this as the most public and humiliating defeat Sony has faced in its case so far.

As we stated in our original story, the problem was never just that Sony's argument was weak — it's that it was obviously weak. Finally, we see that reflected in the Brazilian regulator's summary of the case, as all but one of our three main counter-arguments are brought up in CADE's approval of the acquisition. Let's take a look at those statements, starting with CADE's rebuttal to PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan's argument that Xbox exclusivity of the Call of Duty series was in some way anti-competitive:

call of dutyKratos' rage surfaces once more.

"Exclusive games are a benchmark of competition between Microsoft and SIE, although no company has so far developed or acquired an exclusive game that has decisively shifted the balance in favour of a console. This is because proprietary exclusive games are less popular and represent less revenue than third-party AAA games, which, until then, are available on Xbox and PlayStation."

This ties into our argument that no game is 'too big' to dominate the competition completely, even in the subscription service war, and that Sony has plenty of exclusives in its roster to fall back on should Call of Duty be yanked away from the PS5 and PS4 in the near future. This stance bleeds into our second point: that Nintendo has thrived absolutely fine without Call of Duty support since the Wii U days.

call of dutyNo sweat off Mario's back.

CADE's statement reads: "As already seen, Nintendo does not currently rely on any content from Activision Blizzard to compete in the market. In turn, Sony has several predicates – strength of the world’s leading brand for more than 20 years, extensive experience in the sector, largest user base, largest installed base of consoles, robust catalog of exclusive games, partnerships with multiple publishers, brand loyal consumers, etc. – which should contribute to maintaining the competitiveness of PlayStation in a possible post-Operation scenario, even in the face of possible loss of access to Activision Blizzard content."

Pretty crushingly clear, though none of this is to say that Sony didn't have any case in this matter. It could have argued against the scale of the acquisition as a negative trend for the games industry as a whole — were that not potentially shooting itself in the foot at a later date should PlayStation decide on a near-equally big purchase someday, such as the rumoured Square Enix acquisition.

boxingThis should be a far more even fight.

The only line of argument that CADE didn't pointedly agree with us on was that Call of Duty's star may, in fact, be fading. This wasn't something CADE was ever likely to assess actively, though it's possible we're wrong about it too — fans online seem pretty hyped about Call of Duty Modern Warfare II's multiplayer and cautiously optimistic about next year's expansion, even in the face of a massive 50 million active player count loss.

Instead, CADE argued against the sway of Call of Duty as such: "In this sense, although it is recognized that part of the users of PlayStation consoles (from Sony) could decide to migrate to Xbox in the event that Activision Blizzard games – and especially Call of Duty– become exclusive to the Microsoft ecosystem, SG/Cade does not believe that such a possibility represents, in itself, a risk to competition in the console market as a whole."

CODGhost might not be so blue at some point.

We know at least from our own community poll regarding Xbox gaining Call of Duty that over half of players asked "don't care" if the franchise leaves PlayStation, and that under 20% voted in any way indicative of the series having an impact on their spending. This might be a microcosm of PlayStation players' thoughts and cares, but we're pretty confident PlayStation will still thrive with even as big a whack to its userbase as 20%.

Regardless of the results, the damage to PlayStation's public image had already been dealt the moment Sony belittled its own brand at the alter of Call of Duty. Perhaps this weak argument was always just a scrappy play to put pressure on the competition, and not genuinely indicative of Sony's internal view of its own brand — that's what we hope, at least. Let us know in the comments what your thoughts are on this particular episode, and keep an eye on other regulatory bodies like the UK government, who are still due to adminster a verdict on Microsoft's acquisition.
Lee Brady
Written by Lee Brady
Staff Writer Lee keeps one eye on the future (Shadow x Sonic Generations), one eye on the past (PS Plus Premium games), and his secret third eye on junk he really likes (Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts games). Then he uses his big mouth to blurt out long-winded opinions about video games.
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