(Photo: Lucas Santos/Unsplash)Microsoft’s indeterminate acquisition of Activision Blizzard has sparked quite a bit of tension between the tech giant and its competitors. Most notably, Sony has voiced its concerns regarding Microsoft’s impending ability to snatch major Activision franchises away from PlayStation, which could in turn result in major hardware losses for Sony. Google, Apple, and other major players have even been invited to comment on the acquisition as antitrust watchdogs around the world review the deal. But there’s one company we haven’t heard much from: Nintendo.
Now, after a long stint on the sidelines, Nintendo is having its moment. In an attempt to stave off further scrutiny from regulators, Microsoft has reportedly signed a deal that will bring Call of Duty—arguably Activision’s most sought-after franchise—to Nintendo.
Xbox head Phil Spencer shared the news on Twitter late Tuesday night. “Microsoft has entered into a 10-year commitment to bring Call of Duty to Nintendo following the merger of Microsoft and Activision Blizzard King,” he wrote. “Microsoft is committed to helping bring more games to more people—however they choose to play.”
Spencer added that Microsoft signed a similar contract with Valve, which will keep Call of Duty on Steam for another decade. The deal ensures PC gamers will continue to have access to the franchise on their favorite device. According to a (large-scale yet admittedly unofficial) Twitter poll, PC gamers make up about a quarter of Call of Duty players, meaning it’s in Microsoft’s best interest to keep the game on-platform.
Both contracts constitute an unexpected move on Microsoft’s part. Call of Duty hasn’t been available on a Nintendo console since the Wii; before this week, it was laughable to hope any part of the franchise would ever be playable on the Nintendo Switch. 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.
Last week Microsoft was expected to offer a similar 10-year Call of Duty concession to Sony, its biggest disputant by a long shot. This was in light of expected objections to the acquisition from the European Union early next year. But Microsoft says it’s offered Sony a similar deal in the past with no success. If that’s true, it seems unlikely Microsoft and Sony will ever come to a pre-acquisition agreement regarding major Activision franchises’ longevity on PlayStation. If anything, guaranteed availability on Nintendo and Steam should put pressure on Sony to (even begrudgingly) 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.