As we grow closer to the finish line in the months-long struggle for Microsoft to buy Activision Blizzard, things are getting tense. Governments are getting involved, weird promises are being made and the people at the centre of it all—like Activision CEO Bobby Kotick—sound like they’re starting to feel the strain.
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Which might explain why earlier today Kotick sent out an email to his entire company—and then posted it on the internet for the whole world to see—which does little but bang his head against the wall repeating the same arguments Microsoft, Activision (and now select US politicians) have been making for months: that the deal is fine, that everything is cool, that Microsoft has made “thoughtful, generous remedies to address regulators’ concerns”.
One thing stands out in this email, though, and it’s a section where Kotick has to juggle maintaining a business relationship with Sony while also wanting to throw them under the bus. Let’s see how he fared (emphasis mine):
The good news is, regulators who initially had concerns about console competition are starting to better understand our industry. The data and evidence Microsoft has been presenting are tilting the scale. You may have seen statements from Sony, including an argument that if this deal goes through, Microsoft could release deliberately “buggy” versions of our games on PlayStation. We all know our passionate players would be the first to hold Microsoft accountable for keeping its promises of content and quality parity. And, all of us who work so hard to deliver the best games in our industry care too deeply about our players to ever launch sub-par versions of our games. Sony has even admitted that they aren’t actually concerned about a Call of Duty agreement—they would just like to prevent our merger from happening. This is obviously disappointing behavior from a partner for almost thirty years, but we will not allow Sony’s behavior to affect our long term relationship. PlayStation players know we will continue to deliver the best games possible on Sony platforms as we have since the launch of PlayStation.
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In other words, “it’s not me, it’s you”. I don’t see any other way he could have put this, to be honest, but then this kind of tiptoeing is exactly why this proposed deal has been so important to the future of the console business: so many grenades have been lobbed by both sides that there’s going to be bad blood here for years regardless of the decision.