It’s no controversial statement to say that Activision’s shooter franchise Call of Duty is something of a golden goose within the gaming industry, having raked in billions of dollars worth of revenue over the course of the past two decades. As such, the military shooter franchise currently finds itself at the center of an increasingly bitter feud between Sony PlayStation and Xbox over the brand’s uncertain future.
While Microsoft’s purchase of Call of Duty publisher Activision Blizzard is yet to be approved and completed, PlayStation is already getting antsy about whether the cash cow is getting set to become an Xbox exclusive. Despite Xbox boss Phil Spencer previously stating that PlayStation fans can expect to play Call of Duty titles “for many years” post buyout even going as far as to sign a contract guaranteeing Sony as such, PlayStation’s Jim Ryan has now publicly called the terms of the agreement “inadequate on many levels.”
“Microsoft has only offered for Call of Duty to remain on PlayStation for three years after the current agreement between Activision and Sony ends,” reveals Ryan in an interview with GamesIndustry.biz. “After almost 20 years of Call of Duty on PlayStation, [The Microsoft] proposal was inadequate on many levels and failed to take account of the impact on our gamers. We want to guarantee PlayStation gamers continue to have the highest quality Call of Duty experience, and Microsoft’s proposal undermines this principle.”
While Phil Spencer is yet to respond to these comments, he has previously noted that he believes the terms of the PlayStation/Xbox Call of Duty contract represent “an offer that goes well beyond typical gaming industry agreements.”
Aside from possibly Grand Theft Auto, there is perhaps no one brand that can make executives so itchy that they’d openly call out their disdain in public. While the terms of the deal are not readily available, it appears that Call of Duty will continue to release on PlayStation (should the Microsoft/Activision purchase go ahead), for at least the following three-to-four titles. Playing the long game, Ryan clearly sees the potential for the franchise to become an Xbox/PC exclusive heading into the back half of the decade, and is already taking steps to make sure his brand does not lose a piece of the lucrative Call of Duty pie. You’ll forgive me for raising a sky-high eyebrow at the idea it’s “for the gamers.”
It should be noted that these types of deals are nothing new, and that PlayStation itself has previously paid through the nose to ensure it has its own range of third-party exclusives (though many of these are, admittedly, also available on PC). In this case, however, we’re essentially talking about the crown jewels of gaming, and as such this whole situation is likely to stay particularly ugly.