Xbox boss responds, as Microsoft and Sony spat over Activision Blizzard deal intensifies

Xbox boss responds, as Microsoft and Sony spat over Activision Blizzard deal intensifies

As the row between Sony and Microsoft intensifies over the latter’s impending Activision Blizzard purchase, Xbox boss Phil Spencer has given his thoughts on the matter to American television.

Spencer appeared on CNBC overnight and was questioned about Sony’s recent comments on the deal – including feedback from PlayStation boss Jim Ryan, who previously branded Microsoft’s assurances about the future of Call of Duty as “inadequate”.

When asked if Microsoft was willing to go beyond its recently stated promise – to keep COD on PlayStation for several years – and perhaps promise that it would remain on PlayStation forever, Spencer said his expectation was that Xbox would “continue to broadcast Call of Duty on PlayStation and elsewhere”.

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Here is the full quote:

“I can’t talk much about where we are in regulation [processes] just because of the mechanism that it is,” Spencer told CNBC. “I’ve said publicly to our fans and our customers — which is where our strongest commitment is — that our expectation is that we will continue to ship Call of Duty on PlayStation and other places where people are watching [it]and hopefully expand the places people play all our games.

“That has been our goal. We put the player at the center, and through technologies like the cloud, delivery day and date on PC, we expect the games we build to be played by more players going forward. That’s our goal with every game we play today .”

Spencer was also questioned about another of Sony’s concerns – that Microsoft, even while publishing COD on PlayStation, would include COD in Game Pass, allowing customers to choose to pay $70 on PlayStation or get access as part of their Xbox subscription .

The Xbox boss responded by saying that rather than stifling competition, the growth of Game Pass was a product of the company’s efforts to compete with Sony.

“When I look at something like Game Pass specifically, I think it’s the result of the competition in our market,” Spencer replied. “We sat back like Microsoft and Xbox and we thought ‘how can we innovate and create value… for gamers?’ And we came up with a new model for customers who build out their library of games, and players love it, I think that’s what competition is all about.

“Competition is about getting competitors to innovate, getting competitors to do new things like cloud, like subscriptions, like building new intellectual property. And all we’ve focused on is how do we compete effectively, how do we deliver more value to our customers.”

Regarding exclusivity, Spencer noted that the practice was common in the video game industry, and had been for years, while Xbox also made its games available via PC and cloud.

“Title exclusivity has been something that’s just been the backbone of our industry for a very long time,” Spencer said. “We made a move a few years ago that when we ship our games, we ship them on console and PC. We obviously make them available to almost anyone with a browser today – you can go to xbox.com/play and play our games via the cloud. We’re all about giving players more access to our games going forward. That’s our goal.

“So when we think about exclusivity for us, we’re going to have exclusive titles on Xbox – we do today, it’s part of our platform to create affinity for what we do – but we want those games to end up to be played by more players than they’ve ever been played on before, and we’re building out the technology and innovation to make that possible.”

Microsoft and Sony have traded a series of very public statements in recent weeks as Microsoft’s bid to buy Activision Blizzard moves into a new and more detailed phase of scrutiny by the UK’s competition and markets regulator (CMA).

Despite Microsoft’s assurances, PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan called Xbox’s promises “inadequate on many levels”. Xbox has also hit back at Sony’s complaints about exclusivity, claiming PlayStation pays developers to keep projects off Game Pass.

Just yesterday, Sony said it “welcomes” the CMA’s decision to proceed with a more detailed investigation and that it will “ensure PlayStation players continue to have the highest quality gaming experience”.

Giving Microsoft control over Call of Duty would have “huge negative implications”, it claimed. The CMA’s investigation, Sony continued, would therefore “focus on protecting players”.

Within minutes, Microsoft hit back with an unusually blunt response: “It makes no business sense for Microsoft to remove Call of Duty from PlayStation given its market-leading console position.”

The CMA is now expected to take several months before making its final decision. Meanwhile, the war of words is likely to continue.

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