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Microsoft has signed an agreement to take Activision Blizzard’s Call of Duty franchise to Nintendo, the company announced today, pending the completion of its acquisition of the creator of Call of Duty.
It’s a 10-year deal, meaning Call of Duty will spread beyond the PC, PlayStation, and Xbox platforms to Nintendo as long as federal regulators approve Microsoft’s $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard. And Microsoft said the deal would keep Call of Duty on PC for 10 years on Steam as well.
Microsoft’s argument in the antitrust investigation is that it has a smaller market share in games than Sony or Tencent, and its pledge to keep Activision Blizzard’s largest property, Call of Duty, on multiple platforms for a decade shows its good faith in maintaining – not eliminating – competition in games.
But I’m guessing that means Nintendo could bring Call of Duty to a platform of its choice over the 10 year period which means Call of Duty wouldn’t just run on the Switch which has slimmed down 3D graphics compared to other platforms, but also on the successor to the Switch.
It might take a while to actually make a new version of Call of Duty that runs on the Switch, and Nintendo should have time to launch new hardware in the meantime. The Switch debuted way back in 2017, but it has sold more units than the latest machines from Microsoft and Sony.
Phil Spencer, head of games at Microsoft, told the Washington Post that the company has already brought titles like Minecraft to the Switch. Regulators are concerned that Microsoft’s motivation for buying Activision Blizzard is to make its games exclusive to Microsoft’s platforms. We’ll look forward to more details as they emerge.
Meanwhile, stories suggest the Federal Trade Commission is deadlocked 2-2 to approve or challenge the merger. And in those situations, there’s pressure to get Microsoft to make concessions so the deal can be approved. The Nintendo deal is certainly one such concession.
When asked if the Switch had enough technical specs to run Call of Duty smoothly, Spencer told the Washington Post, “Minecraft and Call of Duty are different games. But from how you get games on Nintendo, to how you lead a development team that focuses on multiple platforms, that’s the experience we have.”
Sony has not accepted a deal with Microsoft that will keep Call of Duty on PlayStation for ten years.
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