In a bid to help secure regulatory approval for Microsoft’s upcoming acquisition of Activision Blizzard, the company has signed a deal with Nintendo to bring Call of Duty to its systems for the next 10 years. The head of Microsoft’s gaming division, Phil Spencer, also revealed they’ve created a similar contract with Valve to continue bringing the franchise to Steam.
The move comes as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the United States, and various regulatory bodies across the world, scrutinize if the Activision acquisition could lead to anti-competitive practices in the videogame industry. Sony has argued that if the deal goes through Microsoft could make the massively popular Call of Duty games into Xbox exclusives, and that they “would control irreplaceable content which drives user engagement.” Their statement to a UK regulatory body explained what they believe would happen in this scenario: “In the mid term, a significant number of PlayStation users would likely switch to Xbox and/or Game Pass. Faced with weaker competition, Microsoft would be able to: increase console and game prices for Xbox users (including those that switched from PlayStation); increase the price of Game Pass; and reduce innovation and quality.”
Microsoft has pushed back on this portrayal, and their move to guarantee that Call of Duty will not be a console exclusive in the coming years is an attempt to back their claims. In an interview with the Washington Post, Spencer compared their treatment of Call of Duty how they’ve continued supporting Minecraft on all other platforms even after acquiring the title. As for why the deal is set for 10 years, Spencer said, “It’s just about picking an expiration date, not with the goal of ever expiring, but just like, the legalese of a document has to say this goes through some date. But once we start working with a platform, just like we have with Minecraft,’ both on PlayStation and on Nintendo’s platform, our goal would be to continue to support those customers.”
While Call of Duty games have come to Nintendo platforms in the past, the series has not appeared on their systems since 2013’s Call of Duty: Ghosts for the Wii U. As for when the titles would start releasing on Nintendo platforms if the acquisition goes through, Spencer said, “Starting to do development work to make that happen would likely take a little bit of time. Once we get into the rhythm of this, our plan would be that when [a Call of Duty game] launches on PlayStation, Xbox and PC, that it would also be available on Nintendo at the same time.”
Recent reports found that the FTC intends to challenge the merger, and they will be meeting to scrutinize the deal on Dec. 8.
In an op-ed for The Hill, Chris Shelton, the president of the Communication Workers of America union, came out in support of the merger. Shelton described the deal as beneficial for workers due to the neutrality agreement the company signed with the CWA, ensuring that workers at the company will be able to make choices about union representation freely. Activision Blizzard has been at the center of multiple sexual harassment and labor scandals, and two of its Quality Assurance departments have voted to unionize in the last year.