A year ago this month, Microsoft announced it would spend $68.7 billion to acquire Activision Blizzard, highlighting how it would get “iconic franchises,” including Duty, Warcraft and Candy Crush for that fee. But with gamers and regulators concerned, Microsoft may be holding on Duty of appearing on Sony’s PlayStation, Microsoft’s lawyers suddenly act like they have no idea why Duty is special.
Or even when it came out, for that matter.
As Matt Stoller points out, the company’s 37-page response to the FTC lawsuit blocking the Activision Blizzard deal includes this laughable passage:
Microsoft claims it has insufficient knowledge or information to form a belief as to the truth of the allegations regarding industry perceptions of Call of Duty and Call of Duty’s original release date; or about the truth of the allegations regarding the launch of Call of Duty and the typical release schedule and the resources and budget Activision allocates to Call of Duty, including the number of studios working on Call of Duty.
I wonder how long it will take to find out Duty‘s riot—oh, wait:
Even forget for a moment that much of what Microsoft asks of the FTC prove eminently googleable, I don’t believe for a second that Microsoft doesn’t also have more obscure details, such as the budgets and raw workforce of each Duty studio.
For starters, Activision Blizzard probably coughed up those details as part of its due diligence surrounding the transaction before Microsoft ever announced it would spend $68 billion on the company. But even if somehow that didn’t happen, I imagine Microsoft has a ton of opposition scrutiny as well. When I brought you the very best and most revealing emails of the Epic against Apple process, I found a document of 67 pages from Microsoft’s “Gaming Business Planning & Strategy Team” which has broken apart all of Microsoft’s main competitors in a myriad of ways, even going so far as to estimate non-public information such as how Sony’s PlayStation Now cloud gaming service raked in $359 million in 2019 .
So yes, this is definitely Microsoft playing dumb.
Supposed Duty exclusivity has been a thorn in Microsoft’s side for months, even though Microsoft gaming boss Phil Spencer has repeatedly insisted that the franchise will remain on rival consoles – Forget editor-in-chief Nilay Patel repeatedly grilled him about it on the Decoder podcast, and he did not evade our questions. I’d recommend giving it a listen if you’re curious.