Game News Call of Duty: What the clash between Jim Ryan (PS5) and Phil Spencer (Xbox) tells us about the Activision affair
It seems like a long time ago when the official Xbox Twitter account posted videos featuring PlayStation games. It was eight years ago. It must be recognized that since 2014, the video game landscape has changed a lot, and the tide may be turning for some giants. Since Microsoft announced its desire to acquire the publisher of Call of Duty, Sony has gone to the front to convince the regulatory authorities that the American enemy has the weapon of mass destruction. Should this be seen as crisis communication?
- A Leader’s Fears
- Mismatch, really?
- A war of egos
A Leader’s Fears
Announced abruptly on Tuesday January 18, 2022, the proposed takeover of the Activision Blizzard King group by Microsoft continues to stir people’s minds. A (big) blow that the current leader of console manufacturers (taking as a basis the turnover generated in gaming) has a hard time accepting. Since regulators have been analyzing the ins and outs of this historic $69 billion merger, the flame of the console war has been rekindled.. Reports from Brazil’s national competition regulator have highlighted the differences in views between the Redmond-based and Tokyo-based firm. According to Jim Ryan, the current boss of PlayStation, the takeover of Activision by Microsoft could harm the current balance of the industry. In fact, two sensitive subjects are pointed out by the representatives of the Japanese group.
The first is based on the firepower that this Game Pass acquisition will allow.. By integrating Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2022), Diablo or even World of Warcraft in “day one” in the catalog, Microsoft could have such a huge stranglehold on the subscription game service market that it would discourage anyone trying to enter this sector. As a reminder, the Game Pass market share would vary between 60% and 70% compared to other services of the same ilk.
The second point listed by Sony comes from a hypothetical future exclusivity of Call of Duty to the Xbox ecosystem, a series that Ryan and his teams qualify as “so important in the FPS world that it defines the genre”while recalling that the games produced by Treyarch and Sledgehammer Games are “almost always at the top of sales for a decade”.
What Sony fears is simple: losing in the field of digital distribution and then subscription because of an irretrievable Game Pass and also losing market share in the console segment if Call of Duty one day becomes an Xbox exclusive. . “Sony protests against the introduction of new monetization models capable of challenging its economic model centered on console sales and exclusives for several years” summary of his side Microsoft. Despite the refresh of its PlayStation Plus offer which now includes three distinct offers providing more or less games via an online catalog, the Japanese juggernaut does not seem confident about its ability to compete in the field of services if its direct competitor recovers Activision .
If the subject Call of Duty seems important both for Sony and for the competition authorities, it is because the franchise brings in a lot of money for the Tokyo group. We remind you that 30% of the amount spent by players who buy Call of Duty on PlayStation or who obtain content from the PlayStation Store goes directly into the pockets of Sony. This represents millions of dollars. For a company whose PlayStation numbers are proudly on display during quarterly results, true engines of the group, the situation may deteriorate. In the event of a slowdown in the gaming segment due to a much lower inflow of money from third parties, the whole company is likely to experience turbulence.. What is happening with Activision is shaking up the Japanese giant who used to set the pace during the PS4 generation. Analysts are in any case formal, even if Microsoft decides to release future Call of Duty on PlayStation 5 and 6, this operation will weaken the current leader of the three main manufacturers.
Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, had declared shortly after the announcement of the proposed acquisition that he “would like“than Call of Duty”continues to be available on PlayStation”. The fact that the British competition authority announced that it was opening an in-depth investigation into the Activision Blizzard takeover prompted Phil Spencer to reveal that he had promised Jim Ryan that the franchise would continue to be released on PlayStation “several years after the agreements already in place”. Although at first glance this statement may seem reassuring for the boss of Sony Interactive Entertainment, the devil is in the details. “Several years” does mean that one day (at the launch of the next generation?), the Redmond firm may decide to cut the tap.
It is in this context where usually private exchanges are made public by regulators – and where Phil Spencer publishes a official post in order to bring his version of the facts – which Jim Ryan attacks. “I didn’t intend to comment on what I thought was a private business discussion, but I feel the need to set the record straight as Phil Spencer brought this issue into the public arena.” he confides in Gamesindustry. He keeps on : “Microsoft only offered Call of Duty to stay on PlayStation for three years after the current deal between Activision and Sony ends. After almost 20 years of Call of Duty on PlayStation, their proposal was inadequate on many levels and failed to consider the impact on our players. We want to ensure that PlayStation players continue to benefit from Call of Duty in the best possible way, and Microsoft’s proposal goes against that principle.”. In other words and in the current state of the agreement, Call of Duty should continue to arrive on PlayStation consoles until 2027/2028.
What Jim Ryan certainly wants is for Microsoft to make an indefinite commitment to the non-exclusivity of Call of Duty. The president of SIE knows that under pressure from regulatory authorities, the Redmond firm can let go. At the time of this writing, the New Zealand and Australian commissions have both postponed their verdict which was due to fall on September 9, 2022. Despite everything, the argument put forward by PlayStation players who “deserve” to play Call of Duty is hardly audible when it is pronounced by a company having ensured the exclusivity, among others, of Street Fighter V. At the time, the message was clear:you want to play Capcom’s game? So buy a PS4“. The Tokyo group has also put tickets on the table in order to find exclusives (total? Temporary?) Final Fantasy VII Remake and Final Fantasy XVI. The company has also secured the services of Bethesda (publisher which is now part of the Xbox family) with temporary exclusives of Deathloop and Ghostwire Tokyo.
A war of egos
On the Internet, the general public revels in the lively exchanges between the two giants. On social networks, the players go there with their little comment. “The more time passes, the more I find Sony’s policy execrable” can we read by here. While some they make fun of kindly from Jim Ryan, others defend him, like Geoff Keighley. Part of the specialized press pointed some bad faith on Sony’s part. For Tom’s guide“PlayStation should be grateful for Microsoft’s offer for Call of Duty“. Of course, the console wars have always been in discussion spaces, but like what happened during the Epic / Apple lawsuit, enthusiasts have access to “off” which seasons the debates. During the previous generation, the good pal Xbox quickly realized that it would be very difficult to catch up with the best in class Sony. This is why we have witnessed cordial, even friendly, exchanges between the two competitors. Since Shawn Layden left Sony and Phil Spencer beefed up the proposal first party of Microsoft, relations have become strained. Everything seems to indicate that the comrade at the back of the class is preparing his revenge by following the path he has chosen.
More than two brands arguing, there are two personalities who challenge each other. Jim Ryan on one side, Phil Spencer on the other. The two have worked for a very long time in their respective companies: 1994 for Ryan, 1988 for Spencer. Both have had a meteoric rise. But the implacable British businessman faces a leader full of ideas who tries to impose a disruptive model. In recent months, Sony has largely followed the path opened by Microsoft by adopting crossplay, investing in the game service, merging PS Now and PlayStation Plus to compete with Game Pass, or even producing controllers “Elite”. Matt Booty (head of studios first party of Microsoft) explained in an article by GameSpot that Phil Spencer”was always five steps ahead”. Perhaps that is what annoys its competitors today, rather than the supposedly unlimited checkbook.
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