The Wall Street Journal has finally published its interview with Xbox's Phil Spencer, revealing key details about the Microsoft-Activision merger, Call of Duty exclusivity, and Game Pass revenues.
According to Xbox's Phil Spencer, Microsoft has no plans to pull Call of Duty off of PlayStation in 2-3 years, which implies that even if Sony doesn't sign a partnership deal that Microsoft will still keep the games on the platform.
Spencer also gives a curious statement that Microsoft will continue shipping Call of Duty on PlayStation on a post-merger basis "if it makes sense" to do so. What does this mean exactly? Not a lot of info was given on this particular sentiment.
"Microsoft has said that they are committed to making Call of Duty on all the different platforms," WSJ's Sarah Needleman asked during the recent WSJ Live interview.
"Yes, we did," Spencer said.
"But you haven't said for how long and for how much. Could this change at some point? Could a couple years down the road could you say it's exclusive to Xbox Game Pass?" Needleman asked.
Spencer highlights Microsoft's motivations with Call of Duty as it pertains to PlayStation.
"That's not our plan. Our plan is that Call of Duty, specifically, would be available on PlayStation...that's what you're asking about, But when I think about our plans, I'd love to see it on Switch, I would love to see the game playable on many different screens.
"This franchise will continue to ship on PlayStation natively. It's not a plan that, okay we're going to bait and switch somebody where they have to play on the cloud, or that in 2 or 3 years we're going to pull the games," Phil Spencer said.
"Our intent is that we would continue to ship Call of Duty on PlayStation as long as that makes sense. As long as...Tech is always at some point in a transition."
The real question is when wouldn't it make sense to ship Call of Duty on PlayStation? Right now Sony is the market leader on consoles and makes the most money among the Big Three, but Xbox is no underdog. Our findings show that Xbox was in second place in 2021 revenues; PlayStation was at $25 billion in 2021, Microsoft made $16.28 billion, and Nintendo made $14.8 billion.
Certainly it would make sense to keep mainline Call of Duty games on PlayStation, right?
What games wouldn't it make sense to keep on PlayStation? Maybe titles that were designed from the ground up specifically to boost engagement on Xbox platforms, including specific service games and/or content.
That's not to say big F2P endeavors like Warzone would go exclusive to Xbox, but there are still major billion-dollar Call of Duty experiences that aren't made available on PlayStation including Call of Duty Mobile. Is this what Spencer is referring to, or could Xbox genuinely get exclusive Call of Duty content, games, and experiences via the Microsoft Store and possibly exclusive to Xbox Game Pass?
It's hard to say for sure, but it's an interesting quote that reflects a similar response that Spencer game Bloomberg when he was asked point blank if Call of Duty would remain on PlayStation in perpetuity:
"So how far does this go? Does this mean Activision games, that Call of Duty that you'll be able to play on any platform in perpetuity?" Bloomberg's Emily Chang asked Spencer in an August 2022 interview.
"I don't know what means in forever, like when you think about how long. It's not for any kind of nefarious business reason, it's just like what did platforms mean 10 years ago, like I think the definition of some of these things might change over time. But our expectation is we want more people to play."