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Sony Worries Microsoft Will Only Give It a 'Degraded' Call of Duty

Friday April 7, 2023. 02:02 AM , from Slashdot
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Late last month, UK regulators said they no longer believed a proposed Microsoft-owned Activision would bar Call of Duty games from PlayStation platforms, a reversal of earlier preliminary findings. Even if you grant that premise, though, Sony says that it's still worried Microsoft could give PlayStation owners a 'degraded' version of new Call of Duty games in an effort to make the Xbox versions look better.

In a newly published response (PDF) to the UK's Competition and Markets Authority, Sony says the regulators' recent turnaround is 'surprising, unprecedented, and irrational.' The company takes specific issue with the regulators' 'lifetime value' modeling, which Sony says heavily undervalues what an Xbox-exclusive Call of Duty would be worth to Microsoft. Beyond those technical concerns, though, Sony says it worries that Microsoft might subtly undermine PlayStation 'simply by not making it as good as it could be.' That could include small changes to the game's 'performance [or] quality of play,' but also secondary moves to 'raise [Call of Duty's] price [on PlayStation], release the game at a later date, or make it available only on Game Pass.' Microsoft would also 'have no incentive to make use of the advanced features in PlayStation not found in Xbox,' Sony says, an apparent reference to the PS5 controller's advanced haptics and built-in audio capabilities.

In its own newly filed response (PDF), Microsoft reiterated that it has 'no intention to withhold or degrade access to Call of Duty or any other Activision content on PlayStation.' That follows on a March filing where Microsoft promised Sony parity on Call of Duty's 'release date, content, features, upgrades, quality, and playability.' But Sony's response reflects a continued lack of trust in such promises. The company cites detailed analyses from the likes of Digital Foundry in saying that 'the technical quality of Modern Warfare II was similar across platforms' in today's market. After a merger, though, Sony argues that 'Microsoft would have different incentives because degrading the experience on PlayStation would benefit Xbox, PlayStation's 'closest rival.'' 'This kind of 'partial foreclosure' strategy might 'trigger fewer gamer complaints' than full Xbox exclusivity for Call of Duty, Sony says, while also allowing Microsoft to 'still secure revenues from sales of Call of Duty on PlayStation for a transitional period,'' reports Ars. 'But Sony says the long-term results of this kind of 'degraded' PlayStation version would be the same as a full PlayStation ban: Call of Duty players abandoning Sony and moving to Microsoft's platforms.'

'Such a move would 'seriously damage our reputation,' Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Jim Ryan told the CMA in a recent hearing. 'Our gamers would desert our platform in droves and network effects would exacerbate the problem. Our business would never recover.''

Read more of this story at Slashdot.
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