Microsoft has signed a 10-year contract to deliver Call of Duty to Nintendo
The same guarantee was made to Steam, placing more pressure on Sony’s resistance to the Activision takeover
Microsoft has signed a 10-year deal with Nintendo to bring Call of Duty to its consoles, marking a significant victory in its battle to complete its acquisition of Activision Blizzard.
Microsoft's games executive, Phil Spencer, announced a similar arrangement with Valve, ensuring Call of Duty's presence on Steam, alongside Xbox, for another decade if the merger goes through.
The transactions put pressure on Sony, which has been pleading with regulators in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union to block the $68.7 billion merger on anti-competitive grounds. Sony's case has been based in part on its fears that Microsoft will make the massively popular Call of Duty series exclusive to Xbox, giving it a competitive advantage over Sony's PlayStation consoles.
Microsoft has repeatedly denied doing so, claiming that it would be unprofitable and citing Minecraft, which it has kept available on PlayStation and other platforms since acquiring developer Mojang in 2014. It then emphasized the point by saying it had offered Sony a 10-year deal to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation.
Sony has not accepted or commented on this offer because doing so would jeopardize its regulatory case. However, the completion of similar agreements with major industry players such as Nintendo and Valve lends significant weight to Microsoft's case and puts pressure on Sony to accept Microsoft's commitments in good faith — something Spencer alluded to in an interview with the Washington Post.
"What I've heard and seen written in the press suggests that when we make public commitments to Sony, we may be implying that our private commitments are untenable or don't work for partners, or for Sony specifically," Spencer said. "Perhaps there's an aura that surrounds our words that they're not genuine, [but] when you have a company like Nintendo or a company like Valve believing in the commitment, and reaching agreement with Nintendo on something like this, we think it's an important point to have out in the market."
There is no set date for when Call of Duty will first appear on Switch or its successor console; Microsoft hopes to close the Activision Blizzard deal in June 2023, but "you can imagine if [the deal] closed on that date, starting to do development work to make that happen would likely take a little bit of time," Spencer said.He stated that the ultimate objective would be to guarantee that new Call of Duty games appeared on Nintendo at the same time as they did on Xbox, PlayStation, and PC, dismissing fears that the Switch would not be strong enough to run them. "We have expertise with getting games onto Nintendo and running a development team that is targeting many platforms," he added. (One alternative would be to offer Call of Duty as a cloud-streaming title for Switch, similar to what Capcom did with Resident Evil Village.)
Call of Duty isn't usually linked with Nintendo platforms, yet multiple titles in the series have appeared on the Wii and even the Wii U. If Microsoft is successful in concluding its agreement and bringing Call of Duty back to Nintendo, it will be the first time since 2013's Call of Duty: Ghosts on Wii U. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is the first game in the series to be released on Steam since 2017's Call of Duty: WWII, and it has proven to be a huge success.
According to recent reports, the United States Federal Trade Commission is "expected" to file a legal challenge to Microsoft's acquisition of Activision Blizzard. With the FTC set to meet on December 8 to review the acquisition, the effective signs of approval from Nintendo and Valve - two of Microsoft's largest gaming competitors, Sony apart — are, to say the least, timely.
What these 10-year contracts do not guarantee is that Call of Duty and other Activision Blizzard games will be available on subscription services other than Microsoft's own Game Pass. Sony has argued – quite persuasively, it must be said – that by making Call of Duty and other Activision Blizzard heavyweights like Overwatch and Diablo exclusive to Game Pass, Microsoft could effectively kill competition in gaming subscriptions, where it is already the market leader.