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Sony’s Modern Approach To Competition is Lacking Credibility



PlayStation 5 Xbox Series X Microsoft Sony competition

It has now been more than a year since Microsoft announced its intentions to acquire Activision and things have gone less than smoothly for the tech giant. Obviously, the ideal outcome for Microsoft would have been for all the regulatory boards to approve the acquisition with little to no friction, but that definitely hasn’t happened. Throughout the process of acquiring approval in Brazil, the United Kingdom, and the United States, Sony has been making very public arguments against the acquisition that seem to revolve entirely around the Call of Duty franchise. Sony’s early PlayStation 3 hubris has returned, and after their counterarguments against Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision, their anti-consumer practices and desperate attempts to avoid competing are out in the open more now than ever–and it’s a bad look.

The arguments Sony has been making against Microsoft’s acquisition are many, but the main ones do an excellent job of highlighting the industry leader’s hypocrisy–oftentimes in a bafflingly shameless display of arrogance. Sony’s opposition argument to the acquisition has been based on three primary points: an inability to meaningfully compete with Call of Duty, speculation that Microsoft’s ownership of Call of Duty will lead to a degradation of the quality of the series on PlayStation, and their currently possessing less market share than Microsoft in the gaming subscription service segment of the market. These arguments could be entertained were it not for Sony’s own actions making the context of said claims appear downright silly.

One of Sony’s most often repeated protests to the Activision acquisition has been the games industry’s inability to mount any meaningful competitor to Call of Duty. Of Sony’s biggest complaints, this one is the most credible. In their reply to the U.K. regulatory board, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), Sony made the argument that they believe that no publisher can create a Call of Duty competitor and that the franchise’s popularity has the ability to dictate which platform consumers choose to purchase.

Image: Activision

This complaint is quite the revelation and while arguably true, what Sony failed to address in their citing of this grievance is their marketing deal with Activision that has been in place since the start of the eighth generation of consoles. For nearly a decade years, Sony has had an exclusive marketing agreement with Activision that presents Sony’s PlayStation platform at the forefront of all Call of Duty marketing as though it were the primary, if not only, place to play the world’s most popular first-person shooter.

So it’s only natural for Sony to be concerned about Call of Duty’s ability to influence the consumer’s decision as to what hardware platform to buy, they’ve been benefitting from that influence for the better part of ten years–and that benefit has come at a hefty monetary cost to Sony. But now that Microsoft has shown up willing to outbid Sony, the power of Call of Duty’s influence over consumers makes that bid anti-competitive? Maintaining intellectual consistency demands recognizing that if Microsoft’s presenting Xbox as the primary place to play Call of Duty is anti-competitive then what Sony has been doing for nearly ten years has been as well.

Another of Sony’s biggest talking points on why the acquisition shouldn’t be allowed pertains to the quality of experience of Call of Duty games across platforms. Sony claims that Microsoft’s acquisition and ownership of Call of Duty could lead to the Call of Duty experience on PlayStation becoming compromised and inherently less than when compared to other platforms. Again this concern could hold merit if a few contextual details are ignored. 

First of all, Microsoft has extended contractual obligations to the major platform holders including Nintendo, Valve, and Sony committing to bringing Call of duty to those respective platforms for the next ten years. Nintendo didn’t hesitate to sign the contract, Valve issued a statement that they have plenty of reason to take Microsoft at their word and don’t feel a contract is needed, and Sony flatly refused to sign said contract calling it “inadequate on many levels.” This flat refusal to ensure Call of Duty on the PlayStation platform could be interpreted as a principled stance in defense of the consumer trying to prevent games from becoming degraded and lesser experiences depending on what platform they are played on were it not for one specific trailer. 

Image: Portkey Games

During their September 13th, 2022 PlayStation State of Play presentation, Sony had the pleasure of debuting a new trailer for the upcoming Wizarding World game Hogwarts Legacy. The trailer focused entirely on The Haunted Hogsmeade Shop questline that admittedly looks extremely entertaining. The reason for this trailer’s relevance however comes at the tail end where it is confirmed on screen that the quest is exclusive to PlayStation and includes an additional dungeon, a shopkeeper’s cosmetic set, and an in-game Hogsmeade shop.

The fact that Sony can present the argument that they are concerned about competition and the Call of Duty experience becoming watered down or less than on PlayStation is diametrically opposed to their having an exclusive questline in Hogwarts Legacy. Hogwarts Legacy will undeniably be a lesser experience on Xbox and PC now but Sony doesn’t seem the slightest bit concerned about competition in this case. It’s almost as though that trailer coming hot on the heels of their lesser experience argument reveals Sony’s actions for what they truly are, posturing.

And finally the last of Sony’s significant complaints are rooted in Microsoft’s market share in the gaming subscription service segment of the industry. It’s no secret that Game Pass is the most popular subscription game service by a country mile. The service was started in June of 2017 as a means of shaking up the industry and offering value to the consumer when Microsoft’s Xbox brand was on the ropes against Sony’s PlayStation 4. With their newly formed model, Microsoft also made the commitment to launch all of their first-party games day and date on the service. 

Not only did it take Sony five years to respond with their own similar service, but when they did, they still refused and continue to refuse to put their first-party games on the PlayStation Plus Extra and Premium services on day one. Sony’s concern about Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision and presumably releasing Call of Duty on their Game Pass service every year rings hollow when Sony itself refuses to put their own award-winning first-party games on their competing service day and date. In short: Sony refuses to compete and is upset about being expected to.

Image: Microsoft

Since the introduction of the PlayStation 5 Sony’s business practices have become increasingly anti-consumer. From obscuring PlayStation 4 releases to straight-up lying about games being platform exclusives, and raising the price of their console in every region that doesn’t drive the PlayStation hype train Sony has been anything but pro-consumer this generation.

Microsoft’s attempted acquisition of Activision has only given Sony additional opportunities to prove that their days of PS3 “I will work more hours to buy one” levels of hubris have returned. Were the acquisition to go through then Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision might be good for consumers or it might be bad for consumers but one thing that we should all agree on is that Sony’s arguments are being made in bad faith and their advocacy is only in service to their own comfort with not having to compete in the market.

News writer and Xbox reviewer. Patrick lives in Minneapolis Minnesota with his wife and their dog Ghost. Patrick studied economics at the University of Northern Colorado and is particularly interested in the market dynamics of the video game industry. When he's not working Patrick can be found walking Ghost through downtown MPLS, binging The West Wing on repeat, or playing hockey. You see everything Patrick does right here on

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