By Samantha Murphy Kelly, CNN Business
Fans of the popular first-person shooter game “Call of Duty” may soon have more options for where they can play it.
Microsoft said late Tuesday it has reached a 10-year deal to bring the 19-year-old game franchise to Nintendo after its acquisition of Activision Blizzard, which makes the game, is completed. The deal is pending regulatory approval.
The news came one day after Microsoft president Brad Smith wrote in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece that the Redmond, Washington-based company offered a 10-year contract for “Call of Duty” to work with Sony’s PlayStation console. (Microsoft reportedly made another offer earlier this year). Sony did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Nintendo deal is the latest attempt by Microsoft to ease concerns that its blockbuster acquisition of the gaming giant could harm competition in the industry.
Microsoft announced plans to acquire Activision Blizzard in January in a deal valued at nearly $70 billion, which would be one of the biggest ever in the tech industry. The move could boost Microsoft’s standing in the gaming industry, as its Xbox console trails behind Sony’s PlayStation and the Nintendo Switch.
Microsoft head of gaming Phil Spencer announced the commitment with Nintendo in a tweet and said it will continue to offer “Call of Duty” on gaming platform Steam if the deal is completed. “Microsoft is committed to helping bring more games to more people — however they choose to play,” he said.
The company’s decision to bring “Call of Duty” to Nintendo comes as Microsoft’s Activision deal faces regulatory scrutiny on both sides of the Atlantic. The US Federal Trade Commission reportedly plans to sue Microsoft to block the Activision acquisition.
But Smith this week defended the strategy, saying a block of the deal would be “a huge mistake.”
“It would hurt competition, consumers and thousands of game developers,” he wrote in the Wall Street Journal.
He argued that Microsoft faces “huge challenges” in the gaming industry, and the potential acquisition of Activision Blizzard could allow Microsoft to compete against these companies “through innovation that would benefit consumers.”
Microsoft also wants to offer the option for customers to subscribe to a cloud gaming service that lets them stream a variety of games on multiple devices for a “reasonable” fee, Smith said. The company is open to providing the same commitment to other platforms, which would be legally enforceable by regulators in the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union.
According to Eric Abbruzzese, an analyst at ABI Research, the effort to open up access to its games shows Microsoft is “scrambling” to overcome regulatory hurdles.
“If the offer helps the deal finalize, then that is a huge win that flies under the radar with ‘Call of Duty’ in the headlines,” he said. “But offering a single entity for a limited time would not be enough to circumvent regulation, as it is temporary and narrow in scope.”
“Call of Duty” is arguably the most popular game title today, so the impact to consumers is notable. As of 2020, the game had topped 250 million downloads worldwide, according to data from SensorTower, an analytics firm that tracks app downloads.
“Nintendo is not a high priority for ‘Call of Duty,’ all things considered — it has done perfectly fine without being on Nintendo recently,” Abbruzzese added. “Keeping it on Steam for the PC market is significant though, and obviously if this offer convinces Sony to accept as well, that’s gigantic.”
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