A significant amount of new industry information has been revealed overnight, as the FTC has taken Microsoft to court for the company’s planned acquisition of Activision Blizzard King. Emails, prior mergers, and more were dredged up as the July deadline for the deal draws near.
Numerous people were brought up to the stand, including Bethesda’s head of publishing Pete Hines, Matt Booty over at Xbox Game Studios, and Jim Ryan from PlayStation and more. The result was a full day of juicy reveals that granted an insight into the goings on behind the scenes at some of the video game industry’s largest companies.
The vast majority of these stories come courtesy of IGN, who had journalists present inside the courtroom to write up what was squeezed out by judges overseeing the proceedings between the FTC and Microsoft. First up, the revelation that Bobby Kotick demanded a larger revenue split for Call of Duty on Xbox. Without that increased payout, he threatened to remove the hugely popular FPS series from the platform. This, according to Xbox Vice president Sarah Bond, was a demand Microsoft met: “Time was limited. We had players whose expectations we wanted to meet, so we ultimately made a decision that it was the best thing for the business.”
Bond would also release confidential documents at the FTC court hearing that showed a 10-year commitment from Microsoft to bring future versions of Call of Duty onto the Nintendo Switch. She also revealed a similar contract was in place to be signed for Valve, but that Valve didn’t want to sign long-locking contracts and “trusted Microsoft’s intentions”.
Next up was Pete Hines, head of publishing at Bethesda, with a boatload of bombshells. First off, he confirmed that the upcoming Indiana Jones game being developed by Machine Games was initially intended to have a PlayStation 5 release. However, following Microsoft’s acquisition of ZeniMax, these plans were amended to make it a PC / Xbox console exclusive. The game is also set to be available on Game Pass on release.
Pete Hines would also be prodded on the exclusivity of games like Redfall and Starfield to which he stated that he didn’t believe Starfield would hit its September release window if it was multiplatform. Perhaps of more interest is his apparent confusion at the time at the difference in approach between ZeniMax titles and Call of Duty, which was able to launch cross-platform and dodge exclusivity altogether.
As for future games, the exclusivity of Outer Worlds 2 is currently up in the air, with head of Xbox Game Studios Matt Booty stating the “decision has not been made” in court. Booty would go on to say that the previous game’s platforms are taken into consideration for decisions like these, and since the original Outer Worlds was released on PlayStation, that would be taken into account.
It was also revealed in emails shown to the court that PlayStation boss Jim Ryan believed that Call of Duty would continue to launch on PlayStation consoles “for many years to come” only days following the acquisition was announced back in 2022. This seemingly works against the public concern Sony has shown towards the acquisition.
However, Jim Ryan would also state that Sony wouldn’t be able to share information on the PlayStation 6 with Activision Blizzard if the acquisition goes through, stating the company: “simply could not run the risk of a company that was owned by a direct competitor having access to that information.”
At this point, the court hearing gets wild. Court documents revealed at the hearing reveal that Microsoft expects the next generation of consoles to be released in 2028. This means the next Xbox and the PlayStation 6 should be dropping later this decade, according to its estimates.
Microsoft documents would also reveal the company’s belief that it “hasn’t stopped losing the console wars” ever since it joined the industry in 2001. The document would also read: “Xbox’s console has consistently ranked third (of three) behind PlayStation and Nintendo in sales.” The company would go on to state that it’s “betting on a different strategy”, a big part of the company’s underdog argument that it hopes will win over the FTC and get the gears moving on the deal once again.
What a roller coaster, and it’s only day one! Will you be keeping track of this explosive court hearing in the coming days? Let us know below, as well as the most shocking revelation from the day in your opinion!