While we have been seeing Sony and Microsoft do big moves in dealing with regulators over the Activision Blizzard King acquisition, Activision Blizzard King themselves haven’t been talking or acting all that much. That changed later today.
Lulu Cheng Meservey, Activision Blizzard King’s Chief Communications Officer and EVP of Corporate Affairs, shared this message, tagging the FTC itself, on Twitter earlier today:
“Hi @FTC — did you catch last night’s episode of The Last of Us? It was incredible. No wonder the show is breaking records. It’s a true blockbuster, watched by tens of millions. If you haven’t already, you should check it out.
You may be particularly interested in the fact that The Last of Us is produced by Sony Pictures Television and PlayStation Productions.
It’s based on a best-selling video game developed by a Sony-owned studio and published by Sony as a PlayStation exclusive.
Why does this matter?
The FTC has opposed the Microsoft – Activision Blizzard deal on the grounds that Microsoft could “suppress competition” from rival consoles by leveraging Activision games.
It sounds like there’s some worry that Sony’s position as market leader could be jeopardized by this deal.
But there’s no cause for concern.
Sony has an unrivaled warchest of IP, not just in gaming but TV, movies, and music — which can be developed into games, or can market existing games.
Case in point: the TV show The Last of Us is already generating renewed interest in that game.
Sony’s talent and IP across gaming, TV, movies, and music are formidable and truly impressive.
It’s no wonder they also continue to dominate as the market leader for consoles.
In gaming, Sony is “the first of us” – and they will be just fine without the FTC’s protection.”
In case you can’t tell, Activision isn’t really talking primarily to the FTC. In fact, it’s extremely likely that Activision Blizzard already shared these sentiments to the FTC, the European Commission, the CMA, and all the other regulators still investigating the deal. They will definitely be repeating these arguments to these regulators in the future.
We are now in the middle of the PR war between the major players struggling to get the acquisition approved or rejected by regulators. Just yesterday Microsoft accused Sony – their PlayStation boss Jim Ryan no less – of lying to the European Commission.
And so, Activision Blizzard is now putting pressure on the FTC to back off, by publicly making these counterarguments to the FTC’s claims. Activision Blizzard isn’t necessarily doing this because they think it will convince FTC head Lina Khan, or other members of the regulator to change their mind. If that doesn’t work, it can still convince people to be more skeptical of the FTC’s claims in their lawsuit, creating public pressure from them to drop said lawsuit.
And we expect Microsoft to oppose Sony’s claims, but lest you forget, there are other entities, that aren’t even competitors in the industry, who have a vested interest in this lawsuit. The AFL-CIO, as unlikely as it seems, took Microsoft’s side vs Sony’s, and chided the FTC for filing the lawsuit. In the AFL-CIO’s words, the deal would “give Activision Blizzard workers the freedom to join a union through employer neutrality.”
The FTC itself also seems to be inviting scrutiny with their own actions. We covered a rumor that they sued Microsoft, to rout Microsoft’s attempt to make a deal with the European Commission, for them to approve the acquisition.
Bu it’s easy to forget that Activision Blizzard King is a player in this lawsuit, and acquisition, as well. And Activision Blizzard King’s position is that they want this acquisition to go through. It’s something that the bosses at both companies have already agreed upon, and they have already made plans following the acquisition when it comes to future games and products that they will be working on. They have money and future games on the line with this acquisition.
It also stands to be said, even as Activision Blizzard King now publishes games on Sony’s platforms, that The Last Of Us, and Sony’s other games and IP, also compete with Activision Blizzard King’s products. For example, while they aren’t exactly the same game, PlayStation 5 owners do find themselves choosing to buy and/or play the latest Call of Duty, or the latest version of The Last of Us Part 1.Even if one such consumer owns both games, they continue to compete for your time, as Call of Duty Warzone 2.0 is free-to-play and can continue to make money for Activision if it continues to be played.
In spite of Activision’s longstanding relationship with Sony to publish Call of Duty games on PlayStation, that goes back decades, they are not necessarily friendly with each other. Don’t be surprised if the coming months sees Activision throw more statements to undermine Sony in this situation. Sony might even fire back.