Microsoft Agrees to Bring Call of Duty to Nintendo Despite Acquisition Scrutiny

Microsoft Agrees to Bring Call of Duty to Nintendo Despite Acquisition Scrutiny

Microsoft indefinite acquisition of Activision Blizzard has caused considerable friction between the tech behemoth and its competitors. Most notably, Sony has expressed concern about Microsoft’s impending ability to steal major Activision franchises away from PlayStation, which could result in significant hardware losses for Sony. Google, Apple, and other major players have even been invited to comment on the deal as antitrust regulators around the world examine it. But there is one company from which we haven’t heard much: Nintendo.

After a long absence, Nintendo is finally having its moment. In an effort to avoid further regulatory scrutiny, Microsoft is said to have signed a deal to bring Call of Duty—arguably Activision’s most sought-after franchise—to Nintendo. Xbox CEO Phil Spencer announced the news late Tuesday night on Twitter. “Following the merger of Microsoft and Activision Blizzard King, Microsoft has entered into a 10-year commitment to bring Call of Duty to Nintendo,” he wrote. “Microsoft is dedicated to bringing more games to more people, regardless of how they choose to play.”

Spencer went on to say that Microsoft signed a similar agreement with Valve that will keep Call of Duty on Steam for another decade. The agreement ensures that PC gamers can continue to enjoy the franchise on their preferred device. According to a (large-scale but admittedly unofficial) Twitter poll, PC gamers account for roughly a quarter of all Call of Duty players, implying that it is in Microsoft’s best interests to keep the game on-platform.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare

Both contracts represent an unexpected move by Microsoft. Call of Duty hasn’t been available on a Nintendo console since the Wii, and it was laughable to think that any part of the franchise would ever be playable on the Nintendo Switch before this week.And while Microsoft makes PCs and PC operating systems, it could have snubbed Steam in favor of keeping newly-acquired franchises on its own virtual storefront: the Microsoft Store.

Microsoft was expected to offer a similar 10-year Call of Duty concession to Sony, its biggest rival by a long shot, last week. This was in light of anticipated European Union objections to the acquisition early next year. However, Microsoft claims that it has previously offered a similar deal to Sony without success. If this is true, it appears unlikely that Microsoft and Sony will ever reach a pre-acquisition agreement regarding the longevity of major Activision franchises on PlayStation. Guaranteed availability on Nintendo and Steam, on the other hand, should put pressure on Sony to (grudgingly) drop its opposition to the merger.

As for Microsoft’s deal with Nintendo, it’s not yet known when Call of Duty will become available on the Switch. Microsoft’s Activision acquisition is expected to go through in summer 2023 if it goes through at all; after that, it’ll be up to developers to ready the franchise for a whole new slate of consoles.

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