Microsoft has extended an olive branch to the chief critic of its $68.7 billion acquisition of gaming giant Activision Blizzard.

Sony has long opposed the acquisition due to fears Microsoft would use its ownership of the gaming publisher to delay the release of important gaming titles such as Call of Duty for the Sony PlayStation, in favour of Microsoft’s Xbox platform.

Indeed, such is the concern that regulators around the world have announced deeper investigations into Microsoft’s purchase, which could be blocked on antitrust grounds.

Sony concession

Now Microsoft President Brad Smith has said that Redmond has offered Sony a 10-year contract to make each new release of the Call of Duty available on Sony’s PlayStation console at the same time as the Xbox.

Microsoft of course hopes the concession will assuage regulator and antitrust fears over its proposed Activision Blizzard acquisition.

Last month, Politico reported that the US Federal Trade Commission is likely to file an antitrust lawsuit to block Microsoft’s takeover of Activision

Microsoft’s Brad Smith in response on Monday wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, defending the acquisition as “good for gamers” and criticising any potential FTC lawsuit.

“That would be a huge mistake. It would hurt competition, consumers and thousands of game developers,” Smith wrote about the potential lawsuit.

Any move to make Call of Duty unavailable to Sony’s PlayStation console would be “economically irrational,” Microsoft’s Smith added, because a “vital” part of the game’s revenue comes from PlayStation game sales.

“Given the popularity of cross-play, it would also be disastrous to the ‘Call of Duty’ franchise and Xbox itself, alienating millions of gamers,” Smith wrote.

“That’s why we’ve offered Sony a 10-year contract to make each new ‘Call of Duty’ release available on PlayStation the same day it comes to Xbox,” Smith wrote. “We’re open to providing the same commitment to other platforms and making it legally enforceable by regulators in the US, UK and European Union.”

Regulatory probes

Microsoft’s purchase of Activision Blizzard is already facing significant regulatory scrunity.

The UK was the first major regulatory body to begin investigating the deal.

In July the UK’s CMA said it would begin Phase 1 investigation over whether the deal would reduce competition in the UK.

After the Phase 1 investigation revealed regulatory concerns, the CMA said in September it would begin a deeper Phase 2 investigation.

However the UK regulator gave Microsoft until 8 September to submit proposals to address the CMA’s concerns.

Microsoft responded to the CMA deadline, but offered no concessions or remedial undertakings to the British competition regulator.

The European Commission followed the UK and last month opened an “in-depth investigation to assess the proposed acquisition.

At the time Microsoft had also offered the European Union regulator no concessions.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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