PlayStation boss Jim Ryan has been fighting Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard tooth-and-nail, claiming it jeopardizes Call of Duty on PlayStation 5. But in a private email when the deal was first announced, Ryan apparently wrote that he didn’t think it was an “exclusivity play” to take away Call of Duty, and that Microsoft was “thinking bigger than that.”
The previously unreported email was discussed by Microsoft’s lead lawyer in its current court hearing fighting a proposed injunction by the Federal Trade Commission on its attempted $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard. Ryan, who became head of Sony Interactive Entertainment in 2019, was apparently discussing the deal while writing to Chris Deering, the former president of PlayStation Europe.
“It is not an exclusivity play at all,” Ryan wrote according to Microsoft’s lawyer. According to IGN, the email was dated January 20, 2022, just two days after the acquisition was announced. “They’re thinking bigger than that and they have the cash to make moves like this. I’ve spent a fair bit of time with with [Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer] and [Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick] over the past day, and I’m pretty sure we will continue to see [Call of Duty] on PlayStation for many years to come.”
This seems to fly in the face of arguments Sony has made publicly and to regulators that the deal would lead to Call of Duty potentially becoming an Xbox exclusive or running worse on competing platforms if it’s completed. Last September, Ryan blasted the reported terms of an initial proposal by Microsoft to keep bringing Call of Duty to PS5, calling it adequate.
“Microsoft has only offered for Call of Duty to remain on PlayStation for three years after the current agreement between Activision and Sony ends,” he said in a statement. “After almost 20 years of Call of Duty on PlayStation, their proposal was inadequate on many levels and failed to take account of the impact on our gamers. We want to guarantee PlayStation gamers continue to have the highest-quality Call of Duty experience, and Microsoft’s proposal undermines this principle.”
In March of this year, Sony also argued to regulators in the UK that Microsoft would have incentive to make the next Call of Duty worse on PS5. “Microsoft might release a PlayStation version of Call of Duty where bugs and errors emerge only on the game’s final level or after later updates,” the company argued. “Even if such degradations could be swiftly detected, any remedy would likely come too late, by which time the gaming community would have lost confidence in PlayStation as a go-to venue to play Call of Duty.” An Activision executive had previously accused Ryan of confessing to just wanting to kill the deal at all costs in a discussion behind closed doors.
While Ryan’s private remarks don’t directly contradict that possibility, they do call into question the authenticity of the arguments the company has been making publicly. Of course, Microsoft’s motive in revealing the content of the email is also clear: it wants the Activision Blizzard deal to go through so it can make more money.