Sony throws in the towel, signs 10 year Call of Duty deal with Microsoft

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 screen
(Image credit: Activision)

After months of bickering and horsing around, Microsoft and Sony have signed a deal that will keep the Call of Duty series on PlayStation consoles for—you guessed it—10 years following the company's acquisition of Activision Blizzard.

"We are pleased to announce that Microsoft and PlayStation have signed a binding agreement to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation following the acquisition of Activision Blizzard," Xbox boss Phil Spencer revealed on Twitter. "We look forward to a future where players globally have more choice to play their favorite games."

"From Day One of this acquisition, we’ve been committed to addressing the concerns of regulators, platform and game developers, and consumers," Microsoft president Brad Smith said. "Even after we cross the finish line for this deal’s approval, we will remain focused on ensuring that Call of Duty remains available on more platforms and for more consumers than ever before."

Neither Spencer nor Smith specified the timeline of the deal, but Microsoft confirmed with The Verge that it's for 10 years. Microsoft also specified that the deal is only for the Call of Duty series, and not other Activision games; in January 2022, shortly after Microsoft announced the proposed acquisition, it offered Sony a deal to "keep all existing Activision console titles on Sony, including future versions in the Call of Duty franchise." That deal was for only five years, however.

Microsoft originally offered Sony a 10-year deal for Call of Duty in November 2022, and when that was rejected it went on something of a signing spree with other platforms, ranging from Steam and Nintendo to lesser-known players like Boosteroid and Ubitus. Of course, those deals were really all about overcoming Sony's objection to the Activision deal, by demonstrating that its professed worries about Call of Duty being made an Xbox console exclusive were overblown.

(Image credit: Brad Smith - Phil Spencer (Twitter))

The strategy reportedly helped move the needle on the EU's decision to approve the acquisition, but a bigger boost on that front came later, and inadvertently, from Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Jim Ryan. In an email written shortly after the buyout was announced and revealed during FTC hearings in January, Ryan dismissed concerns about Call of Duty becoming an Xbox exclusive, writing, "I’m pretty sure we will continue to see CoD on PS for many years to come … I’m not complacent and I’d rather this hadn’t happened, but we’ll be OK, more than OK.”

Sony may have also felt pressure to sign the deal following Microsoft's courtroom victory over the FTC last week, which effectively cleared the way for the Activision deal to close. The FTC still has a case pending against the buyout, but its request for a preliminary injunction to block the deal until that case is resolved was rejected, meaning the buyout can move ahead anyway. 

Following that decision, the UK's Competition and Markets Authority, which rejected the acquisition earlier this year, indicated that it’s willing to reopen discussions in order to address its concerns and clear the way for approval in that country. It seems that the proverbial writing is on the wall, in other words, and having seen it, Sony may have decided that a pretty good deal is better than no deal at all.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.