Call of Duty exclusivity could make Microsofts big Activision deal “hard to get past regulators,” analyst says

A push to make Call of Duty an Xbox console exclusive franchise could get Microsoft’s newly revealed Activision acquisition flagged by antitrust regulators, according to one analyst. 

Speaking with GamesIndustry (opens in new tab), David Cole, founder of analyst firm DFC Intelligence, argued that “the big issue is if [Call of Duty] becomes a Microsoft exclusive. Right now, I don’t think [it will]. For one thing, it would be hard to get it past regulators if they want to lock the competition out.”

In a tweet (opens in new tab), DFC Intelligence affirmed that “regulators will take a close look and franchises like Call of Duty may not be exclusive to Xbox platforms because of antitrust concerns,” adding that “this deal will get a lot of scrutiny.”  

Separately, George Jijiashvili of research firm Omdia told GamesIndustry that, even without total exclusivity, Microsoft can still use Call of Duty as a bargaining chip. “Making Call of Duty exclusive to Xbox – or even just included as part of Game Pass – could be a major benefit for Xbox when these consumers decide between Xbox Series or PS5,” Jijiashvili said. 

Microsoft was quick to confirm plans to add existing and future Activision-published games to Xbox Game Pass, so including a few Call of Duty games seems like a safe bet. The company did much the same following its acquisition of Bethesda, after all.

Phil Spencer stressed that the Microsoft Activision purchase isn’t meant to “pull communities away” from PlayStation, but he and the company have yet to explicitly confirm how many Activision Blizzard-owned games will become Xbox console exclusives. It stands to reason that the company didn’t spend nearly $70 billion to share, but several factors could shape Microsoft’s decision here, including the maximum potential audience of the franchises the company now owns (or will own once the deal officially closes). 

As Cole proposed, antitrust regulations could be another factor. Depending on how this deal is received by regulating bodies, they could be a limiting one, especially concerning Call of Duty, which is the biggest console franchise in the deal. Incidentally, two US antitrust regulators, the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission, announced a joint review of merger guidelines mere hours after Microsoft revealed its megaton acquisition.

Here’s what Microsoft’s latest purchase could mean for Activision Blizzard games and studios.

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