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Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer in an interview with The Verge’s Decoder podcast discussed Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard acquisition. He was asked about the plans for Call of Duty and whether or not it would become an Xbox console exclusive in the future.
“I support the players on PlayStation who want to play our games like Minecraft,” said Spencer. “We don’t expand Minecraft Dungeons and Minecraft Legends out of any contract we have with Sony, but the contract we have with our customers. That is what’s important.
“I understand in the optics of this deal that we might want to make — and I’m totally open to doing this — a contractual commitment to Sony for some number of years that says, ‘Okay, we’re going to continue to ship Call of Duty on PlayStation.’ I’m totally open to that. No issue at all.
“This idea that we’re going to write a contract that says ‘forever’ doesn’t make sense to any lawyer. There is obviously a business relationship between the royalty exchanges and other things. You’re not going to give up any ability to do what you need to do and the flexibility with the business in the future.
“When I’m saying things like, ‘As long as there is a PlayStation,’ there was no implied threat at all. I hope there’s a PlayStation forever. I do. I think PlayStation and Nintendo are great for the gaming industry. Hopefully I have been consistent in saying that. All I mean is that at some point you have to have the ability to run your business, and not just the console business. It’s not about pulling the rug out from underneath the PlayStation 7’s legs at some point, like, ‘Haha, you just didn’t write the contract long enough!’
“There’s no contract that could be written that says ‘forever.’ Our model is we want to be where players are, especially with franchises the size of Minecraft and Call of Duty. I think our Minecraft history is coming up on eight, nine years and it shows in practice how we will support our customers. That’s what I want to do with Call of Duty.
“This idea that we would write a contract that says the word ‘forever’ in it is a little bit silly, but to make a longer-term commitment that Sony and regulators would be comfortable with, I have no issue with at all. I do think there’s going to be a time horizon, just like anybody writing a contract would suggest there should be and will be, but it has nothing to do with any kind of ‘strategery’ there. We think Call of Duty will be on PlayStation as long as players want to play Call of Duty on PlayStation. That’s not a competitive threat against PlayStation. That’s just a kind of pragmatic way of looking at it.”
He was asked if keeping Call of Duty on PlayStation could mean game streaming and Spencer quickly responded by saying “Native Call of Duty on PlayStation, not linked to them having to carry Game Pass or streaming.
“If they want a streaming version of Call of Duty, we could do that as well, just like we do on our own consoles. There’s nothing behind my back. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is doing great on PlayStation and on Xbox — so will the next game, and the next, and the next.
“Native on the platform, not having to subscribe to Game Pass. Sony does not have to take Game Pass on their platform to make that happen. There’s nothing hidden. We want to continue to ship Call of Duty on PlayStation without any kind of weird, ‘Aha! I figured out the gotcha.'”
Spencer added that he understands people’s concerns on whether or not Call of Duty will remain on PlayStation and he is “trying to be as clear as I can be.”
He added that he would love to Call of Duty remain on PlayStation, as well as for the first time releasing the series on the Nintendo Switch.
“I have not sat down with a regulator where they have proposed any regulations,” said Spencer. “I think what people are purporting to report in the press about what’s happening is maybe more rumor and hearsay.
“I have said, specific to Call of Duty on PlayStation and Switch — because I would love to see them on both, and I don’t want to make this about just one of our console competitors — that it’s something that we want to do. It’s in our models when we think about how this plays out over time. The financials of Activision is that Call of Duty would stay on PlayStation. We are definitely open to discussions with either Sony or regulators about making sure that that continues to happen in a way that they want to see.
“I will say, for things like Minecraft — which is my kind of go-to example, because I think we’ve run Minecraft the way that we would run Call of Duty if we were to close this deal — we don’t have a multi-year deal with Sony or Nintendo to put it on those platforms. There seems to be some notion that you have to have some long-term structure in order to continue to support those other platforms. We support Minecraft on those platforms because of how people should analyze this deal, which is about customers.
“When I think about where we are in Activision/Blizzard/King and the regulatory work, I think we should be analyzing whether we are going to harm players. Is there a world where players have less choice in the market, or is there some kind of blocking that we do? We are committed to continuing to ship Call of Duty on PlayStation. People are worried about that. We are committed to putting these games in Game Pass, which gives people more options in how they want to go play these games. Nobody has presented to me a case that shows how Game Pass is bad for customers.
“From the value of a customer, I have a ton of confidence in how a regulator, or anybody else, looks at this deal and says, ‘Okay, I have a point of view on how this deal impacts the real important constituents, which are the players.’ I don’t think the regulatory view on this deal should be about how we compete with one of our competitors. Almost by definition, there is give and take in market share and other things when we’re competing with other companies. In terms of players, I look at whether we can bring benefit to the players in the gaming market through this deal. I think we can.”
A life-long and avid gamer, William D’Angelo was first introduced to VGChartz in 2007. After years of supporting the site, he was brought on in 2010 as a junior analyst, working his way up to lead analyst in 2012 and taking over the hardware estimates in 2017. He has expanded his involvement in the gaming community by producing content on his own YouTube channel and Twitch channel. You can contact the author on Twitter @TrunksWD.