Activision once demanded a higher revenue share for Call of Duty to remain on Xbox

Apparently, if Microsoft hadn't agreed to the deal, Activision Blizzard was willing to make Call of Duty exclusive on the PlayStation 5.

Call of Duty is one of the most profitable franchises in gaming. It's been that way for decades. And, while Activision Blizzard is on Microsoft's side right now as part of the ongoing $70 billion acquisition, there was a time when the two weren't quite on good terms.

Regardless of whether it becomes exclusive or not, Call of Duty will continue to succeed well into the future.

Apparently, because of how much fewer Call of Duty players are on Xbox, Activision Blizzard had threatened Microsoft that it wouldn't put its Call of Duty games on the Xbox Series S/X if it didn't agree on a revised revenue cut.

This surprising revelation emerged as part of the ongoing trial between Microsoft and the US Federal Trade Commission, as transcribed by TweakTown.

You can't blame Activision for pushing for a higher revenue share to optimize its games for a platform that has noticeably fewer players compared to its competition.

According to Xbox's corporate vice president, Sarah Bond, Bobby Kotick, Activision's CEO, once played a high-stakes game of chicken with Microsoft ahead of the Xbox Series X/S launch a few years ago. Apparently, Kotick demanded a better cut from the traditional 70-30 revenue split model between platform holders and publishers, threatening to withhold Call of Duty from the new Xbox consoles.

Microsoft, fearing a PlayStation 5 exclusive release of the popular franchise, buckled under the pressure. The details of this deal were inadvertently revealed during FTC's questioning, suggesting an 80-20 revenue split in Activision's favor.

In an industry dominated by exclusive content and competitive differentiation, the mere thought of a PS5-exclusive Call of Duty entry (or entries, for that matter), would have been a hard pill to swallow for Microsoft. "It was clear that Call of Duty would be on PS5 and that would not have been good if it was not also on Xbox if it was launching at the same time," Bond explained.

Simultaneously, Sony Interactive Entertainment's (SIE) boss, Jim Ryan, voiced his concern about the potential implications of Activision's acquisition by Microsoft. Sony's fruitful collaboration with Activision, which has led to better features on PlayStation consoles, would inevitably suffer.

Activision Blizzard can survive not being bought by Microsoft but we can't say the same for the Xbox platform.

The Activision-Blizzard and Microsoft deal has triggered shockwaves beyond the confines of Call of Duty. In a revealing turn of events, Bethesda's publishing boss, Pete Hines, told the court that the plans for a PS5 version of the in-development Indiana Jones game were scrapped after Microsoft acquired the company.

Microsoft's bid to acquire Activision Blizzard isn't just about its portfolio but it's part of its bid to become the Netflix of the video game industry after admitting that it has lost the console wars. While the FTC trial and Microsoft's admission that it gave in to Activision's demands might paint a grim picture, it reflects the drastic measures companies undertake to ensure a level playing field.

Amidst the courtroom drama and high-stakes negotiation, the true beneficiaries (or casualties) are the consumers. Deals like this can secure the presence of their favorite franchises on their chosen platforms and affect the pricing and availability of these games.

An Xbox-exclusive Call of Duty entry, even if it doesn't happen soon, probably won't sell well.

The coming days of the trial are expected to bring more revelations from industry heavyweights, including Xbox boss Phil Spencer, Sony's PlayStation head Jim Ryan, and Activision's Bobby Kotick, among others. However, the outcome and its potential impact on the industry's future remains shrouded in uncertainty.

For now, Call of Duty continues to be a pivotal piece in the grand chessboard of gaming, the moves dictated by the three corporate giants locked in an epic duel. The final outcome of this saga will determine not just the fate of Call of Duty, but potentially the trajectory of the gaming industry as a whole.

As the court battle continues, the gaming world watches, controller in hand, ready for the next skirmish.


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    1. they have a lot of players on playstation but would lose so much on pc and xbox, it would be bad

Ray Ampoloquio
Ray is a lifelong gamer with a nose for keeping up with the latest news in and out of the gaming industry. When he's not reading, writing, editing, and playing video games, he builds and repairs computers in his spare time. You can find Ray on Twitter and LinkedIn.
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