Today Microsoft announced that it has signed a binding agreement to keep the Call of Duty franchise on PlayStation consoles after the acquisition of Activision Blizzard.
The deal was announced via Twitter by Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer himself, who mentioned that he looks forward to a future where players globally have more choices in terms of devices to play their games.
We are pleased to announce that Microsoft and PlayStation have signed a binding agreement to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation following the acquisition of Activision Blizzard. We look forward to a future where players globally have more choice to play their favorite games.
Microsoft Vice President Brad Smith also echoed Spencer's statement.
From Day One of this acquisition, we’ve been committed to addressing the concerns of regulators, platform and game developers, and consumers. Even after we cross the finish line for this deal’s approval, we will remain focused on ensuring that Call of Duty remains available on more platforms and for more consumers than ever before.
This comes after the American antitrust regulator FTC failed in its last-ditch attempt to correct its defeat in court in the attempt to block the acquisition. While the regulator's administrative process still hasn't been called off, its chance to stop the acquisition before it consummates is basically zero, and even if the FTC would seek a divestiture afterward, this deal between Microsoft and Sony likely defangs their ability to do so.
Before today, Sony had been adamant in refusing a deal with Microsoft, with its CEO Jim Ryan going as far as mentioning that he did not want a deal, but he simply hoped that regulators would do their job and block the merger. It's possible that now that the acquisition seems to be closer than ever to closing, Ryan has felt compelled to change his tune.
The FTC has proven to be a radical opponent of the deal with Sony's support, but its efforts have received a significant blow over the past few days, with three Republican US congressmen harshly criticizing the regulator's head Lina Khan for the agency's conduct in regards to this deal, while she defended its litigators' talent.
If you're interested in reading more about the hearings that led to the Federal Judge's ruling against the FTC, you can read our summaries of the first day, second day, third day, and fourth day (including Bobby Kotick and Satya Nadella's testimonies).
Elsewhere, most regulators have ruled in favor of the acquisition, including recent decisions by the European Union, China, South Korea, South Africa, and Turkey, with a total of 40 countries clearing the acquisition. New Zealand expressed doubts about the deal and Canada expressed its disapproval with a letter, but neither has formally moved to block the acquisition yet. The British CMA initially moved to block the deal but is now considering a new proposal from Microsoft.