According to insiders, the previously held agreement between Sony and Activision that brought CoD exclusive benefits to PlayStation may be in the process of dissolution. Florian Mueller of FOSS Patents speculated that the upcoming Call of Duty iteration might be the last to provide PlayStation-exclusive content if the Activision deal isn't scrapped soon. This move will help level the playing field between platforms and simultaneously cool down the added value for PlayStation owners.
The rumblings about this potential shift aren't merely conjecture from outsiders. In a series of leaked emails between the bosses, PlayStation's Jim Ryan and Xbox's Phil Spencer had a candid exchange. Ryan proposed the scrapping of the existing Sony-Activision deal, seeing potential benefits for both the PlayStation and Xbox ecosystems. Microsoft's president, Brad Smith, also suggested in a CNBC interview that the Sony-Activision exclusivity deal could end next year.
But why would Sony contemplate ending such a rewarding contract? A deeper dive suggests that Microsoft's acquisition is the main reason.
— Florian Mueller (@FOSSpatents) July 16, 2023
Following its acquisition of Bethesda, many high-profile games turned into Xbox exclusives, giving the Xbox platform a big advantage. However, Microsoft's handling of its Minecraft acquisition, which expanded the game's availability on the other platform, hints at a more platform-agnostic approach for the tech giant, especially when it makes the most financial sense.
Indeed, a similar, more platform-neutral approach could be on the horizon for Call of Duty - much to the confusion of the folks over at Bethesda with regard to Starfield.
And while Microsoft may rejoice in the revenue, even if Call of Duty sales on PlayStation dwarf Xbox's, Sony might be left scrambling for a competitive response.
With its Call of Duty deal now official, the time is ticking for Sony's once-impending predicament: the development of a first-party FPS title.
Sony's PlayStation platform is the home of best-selling and award-winning exclusives, except, most fall under the "single-player, 3rd person, open-world/adventure" umbrella. An illustrious list indeed, but noticeably lacking in FPS titles. Now that Microsoft is potentially hoarding the lion's share of popular FPS games (Call of Duty, Doom, Halo, and more) Sony may need to turn to internal studios for an answer.
Guerrilla Games, a Sony-owned developer, previously delved into the FPS genre with the Killzone series before shifting to the highly successful third-person, open-world Horizon games. A return to the FPS genre, leveraging their past experience and Sony's pedigree in character-driven narratives, could be just the panacea that Sony needs.
There are numerous potential outcomes and no shortage of speculation, but the legal complexities are just as abundant. Current contracts can be ended, bought out, or rewritten to accommodate new deals or changes in circumstances. This fluidity makes the gaming landscape a captivating arena, where business strategy is just as vital as gameplay mechanics.
In this case, Microsoft might have bought out Sony's older contract with Activision Blizzard, which can mean that Call of Duty could be headed to Game Pass sooner and/or the next Call of Duty might no longer have PlayStation-exclusive benefits.
It's worth noting that Call of Duty games have, for the past few years, given PlayStation owners exclusive and early access before launching.
Speaking of Call of Duty, the floodgates have opened about the details regarding the next Call of Duty, thanks, ironically, to Activision Blizzard and Microsoft. Its release date was revealed as part of the earlier proceedings. However, most appear to be unhappy with this year's entry. As for next year's installment, it will likely be available on the next Nintendo Switch with a Gulf War setting.