Microsoft buying Activision: What it means for PlayStation owners, other Call of Duty fans
If you own a PlayStation, how worried should you be the company behind the rival Xbox could soon own one of the industry's biggest games?
Microsoft's announcement Tuesday that it planned to buy Activision Blizzard – the video game publisher behind Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and other flagship franchises – stirred some concerns on social media over whether Call of Duty would remain on PlayStation platforms if the deal is cleared.
The deal, which is expected to close no later than June 2023, would give the tech giant another trove of video game properties to bolster the Xbox as well as its Game Pass subscription service.
The announced deal comes two months after reports surfaced Microsoft was evaluating its relationship with Activision Blizzard following allegations its CEO, Bobby Kotick, knew for years about sexual misconduct claims at the company.
And as gamers pondered, it could also deliver a significant setback to PlayStation maker Sony if the acquisition is approved.
►Get tech news you can use delivered: Subscribe to the Talking Tech newsletter
►5G phones:Why do they worry the airline industry?
It's a far cry from 2015 when Andrew House, then the president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment, revealed a deal with Activision to deliver early access to Call of Duty content with the launch of hit title "Call of Duty: Black Ops III."
"PlayStation is the new home of Call of Duty," House proclaimed during a press event at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in 2015.
PlayStation owners, don't worry yet
For now, if you own a PlayStation, Call of Duty isn't going anywhere, said David Cole, analyst with DFC Intelligence. Call of Duty has been the best-selling video game franchise in tracked dollar sales for 13 straight years, said research firm NPD Group.
"That's going to be probably a big issue that the regulators will look at because, obviously, you don't necessarily want to tie it to one hardware platform," said Cole.
According to Bloomberg, Microsoft will keep making some Activision games for PlayStation consoles but keep some content just for the Xbox.
"I’ll just say to players out there who are playing Activision Blizzard games on Sony’s platform: It’s not our intent to pull communities away from that platform and we remained committed to that," said Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft Gaming, in an interview with Bloomberg.
A hint at what may happen
Not sure how this plays out? You can look to the tech giant's deal last year to scoop up ZeniMax Media, which owns Bethesda Game Studios, as a potential outcome.
Soon after the deal closed, a collection of Bethesda titles from franchises such as Doom, Wolfenstein and The Elder Scrolls appeared on Xbox Game Pass, a Netflix-style service where players pay a monthly fee to access dozens of console games. There was also the launch of "Deathloop," an action game available only on PC and PlayStation 5.
On the PlayStation store, several previously released Bethesda games remain available to console owners.
But Bethesda's next big release, the role-playing adventure "Starfield," developed by the creators of "Fallout" and "The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim," will launch only on PC and Xbox.
"It's a tough choice to make in terms of exclusivity, because then you kind of sacrifice the related revenues that you would get from selling outside that environment," said Scott Kessler, vice president and global lead of investment firm Third Bridge.
The deal is expected to close during Microsoft's 2023 fiscal year, ending in June of next year, which means it could take up to 18 months to get cleared. Don't expect major updates to Call of Duty's presence on PlayStation between now and then, said Cole.
"If the merger goes through from 2023 on, we could start to see some major changes," he said.
Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @brettmolina23.