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Microsoft extends offer to Sony for 10-year deal over Call of Duty video game

Microsoft agreed Wednesday to make the hit video game Call of Duty available on rival platform Nintendo for 10 years if its $69 billion purchase of game maker Activision Blizzard goes through. It made a similar offer to rival Sony, which has raised concerns about the Activision purchase.

The blockbuster merger is facing close scrutiny from regulators in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere. Microsoft, maker of the Xbox game console, faces resistance from Sony, which makes the competing PlayStation console and has raised concerns with antitrust watchdogs about losing access to what it calls a "must-have" game title.

Phil Spencer, the head of Xbox, tweeted that Microsoft "entered into a 10-year commitment" to bring Call of Duty to Nintendo.

Open to "10-year deal for PlayStation"

Microsoft President Brad Smith tweeted his thanks to Nintendo, which makes the Switch game console, saying the same 10-year offer was available for Sony.

"Any day @Sony wants to sit down and talk, we'll be happy to hammer out a 10-year deal for PlayStation as well," he said.

Smith said the agreement would bring Call of Duty to more gamers and more platforms, and "that's good for competition and good for consumers."

Sony's European press office didn't respond to a request for comment. Adding to the pressure on Sony, Microsoft also said Wednesday it has committed to keeping Call of Duty on the platform Steam, a digital marketplace for PC games, in an agreement with Steam's operator Valve.

In an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal this week, Smith raised concerns about the possibility that the Federal Trade Commission could take Microsoft to court to stop the deal. Antitrust watchdogs in both Britain and the European Union also are investigating the transaction over concerns it would distort competition.

Battle over Call of Duty

At the heart of the dispute is control over future releases of Activision Blizzard's most popular games, especially Call of Duty, a first-person military shooter franchise. Rights to the mega-hit franchise will be handed over to Microsoft once the deal — the largest in the gaming industry's history — is finalized in 2023.

"Microsoft would have full ownership of one of the most valuable franchises in console gaming," Joost van Dreunen, a lecturer on the business of games at New York University's Stern School of Business said in October. "And naturally, Sony does not want that or like that because it will cost them business."

Activision reported last month that the latest installment, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, had earned more than $1 billion in sales since its October 28 launch, continuing a nearly two-decade run for California-based Activision Blizzard's wildly popular military shooting franchise. New installments of the game can rival Hollywood's biggest blockbusters in how much they earn on their opening weekend.

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