Microsoft Says Nintendo Would Get Call of Duty If Acquisition Approves


Microsoft has signed a deal to bring the Call of Duty franchise published by Activision Blizzard to Nintendo for the first time, the company announced Tuesday night, pending approval of the Activision Blizzard acquisition. The deal guarantees that Microsoft, which is awaiting federal approval to acquire Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion, will make the popular first-person shooter series available on Nintendo Switch for 10 years. It also announced a ten-year deal to keep Call of Duty on the Steam PC game store.

The deal doesn’t specify the first year a Call of Duty title would be available on the Nintendo Switch. A new Call of Duty title coming out would likely be the first to appear on the Nintendo Switch, although Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer said in an interview with the Washington Post that the entire portfolio has yet to be reviewed, to see what titles are making it over to the counter. There is no set date for when Call of Duty will first appear on the Switch.

“You can imagine if [the deal] on that date, it would probably take a little time to start development work to make that happen,” Spencer said, referring to the June 2023 date when the merger is expected to be complete if not by the supervisory authorities is blocked. “Once we get into the rhythm of it, our plan would be when [a Call of Duty game] launches on PlayStation, Xbox and PC that it would also be available on Nintendo at the same time.”

Spencer pointed to Microsoft-owned titles like Minecraft making their way to the Switch as examples of how the company has experience bringing games to different platforms.

“We would also do this with Minecraft, where we would do specific work to get the game to run well on Nintendo Switch and their silicon and fully support their platform,” Spencer said. “We’ll do the same when shipping on PlayStation 5.”

When asked if the Switch has enough specs to run Call of Duty smoothly, Spencer said, “Minecraft and Call of Duty are different games. But how you bring games to Nintendo, how you lead a development team that targets multiple platforms, that’s experience we have.”

Spencer said the agreement between Nintendo and Microsoft is for 10 years, as that amount of time will give gamers peace of mind and it’s likely the companies will continue to work together.

“It’s just a matter of picking an expiration date, not with the goal of ever expiring, but just like the legal language of a document has to say it has a specific date,” Spencer said. “But once we start working with a platform, like we’ve done with Minecraft, on both the PlayStation and Nintendo platforms, our goal would be to continue supporting those customers.”

The move comes as Microsoft awaits regulatory review of the Federal Trade Commission’s proposed acquisition of Sony, the rival maker of the PlayStation console, which believes Call of Duty’s potential to become exclusive to Microsoft platforms , which would give the company an unfair advantage in the video game market, faces a significant challenge. Sony hasn’t accepted a deal with Microsoft that would keep Call of Duty on PlayStation for ten years. Sony declined to comment.

The announcement comes just before a closed session of the FTC on December 8th. While the FTC declined to comment on whether it will meet with Microsoft this week, Bloomberg reported that Microsoft plans to meet with FTC Chair Lina Khan on Wednesday to persuade her to approve the deal . When asked if the announcement regarding the FTC meeting had any significance, Spencer replied, “The things I’ve heard and seen in the press may be intentional on our part in making public commitments to Sony that our private Commitments are untenable or don’t work for partners or specifically for Sony.”

He added that he wants to show big industry partners like Nintendo and Valve that deals can be made even if Sony doesn’t agree. “Maybe there will be an aura around our words that maybe they aren’t genuine, that we think it’s an important point that a company like Nintendo or a company like Valve believes in the commitment and an agreement with Nintendo about something like that meets to have on the market.”

A common concern of international regulators evaluating the acquisition has been whether Call of Duty, one of Activision Blizzard’s most successful franchises, will be unavailable to PlayStation users. Microsoft has repeatedly reassured regulators that the series would remain on all current platforms – which currently include Xbox, PlayStation and PC – and said it would be financially unwise to halt release for PlayStation.

Activision Blizzard and Nintendo have not responded to requests for comment at the time of publication.

Activision Blizzard was made aware of the agreement, and Spencer said they were in a planning phase.

Cat Zakrzewski and Jonathan Lee contributed to this report.

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