There are plenty of tinfoil-y ways that people can paint Microsoft as a mustache-twirling villain, but those can be mostly associated with Redditor ramblings or wild-eyed YouTuber video essays, not a major corporation. That is until February documents filed to the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority were recently released (with redactions), in which Sony lays out a variety of paranoid hypothetical ways Microsoft would circumvent any deal or access PlayStation would have to the Call of Duty franchise.
“Microsoft might release a PlayStation version of Call of Duty where bugs and errors emerge only on the game’s final level or after later updates. Even if such degradations could be swiftly detected, any remedy would likely come too late, by which time the gaming community would have lost confidence in PlayStation as a go-to venue to play Call of Duty. […] If it became known that the game’s performance on PlayStation was worse than on Xbox, Call of Duty gamers could decide to switch to Xbox, for fear of playing their favorite game at a second-class or less competitive venue.”
Other portions of the document suggest that Microsoft would be “incentivized to support and prioritize development of the Xbox version of the game, such as by using its best engineers and more of its resources,” that Microsoft would not invest money or time on PlayStation console multiplayer, and that Microsoft would ignore PlayStation-specific features like haptic triggers on the console’s DualSense controller.
Microsoft rebutted by pointing to a section of its response to the CMA and a statement that both promised “a guarantee of parity between Xbox and PlayStation on access to Call of Duty” and maintain any legally binding commitments to keep the franchise available for as many gamers as possible.
Readers will remember that Microsoft’s multi-billion dollar buyout of Activision-Blizzard has been snarled up from moving forward across several major global markets fueled by worries that Microsoft will snuff out competition in general and will harm the Call of Duty IP in specific with exclusivity arrangements, despite repeated insistence from Microsoft that Activision games will remain multi-platform.