Former PlayStation exec told Jim Ryan the Activision deal is bad business: "Microsoft can p*ss away that kind of [money]"

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
(Image credit: Activision)

An email chain between current and former PlayStation bosses suggest that neither of them were particularly bothered by the Xbox Activision deal. In fact, they both seemed to think it was a bad deal for Call of Duty.

The email chain, dated January 19 and 20, 2022 - immediately after Microsoft announced its plans to acquire Activision Blizzard - was made public as part of this week's hearings over the deal. The first email came after an appearance by Xbox boss Phil Spencer on CNBC, where he said the deal would cement Microsoft's role in mobile gaming. That refers to King, the Candy Crush publisher which is the third pillar of Activision Blizzard.

"Strikes me as more of a King play than COD," former Sony Computer Entertainment Europe president Christopher Deering told current Sony Interactive Entertainment president Jim Ryan in the email. Deering notes that King sold to Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick for "$5 billion and has now grown to be worth £50 billion." Deering seems to be suggesting that the acquisition - which is on track to cost $68.7 billion - would be a good deal to pick up King.

Not so for Call of Duty, however. "If it was an Xbox exclusivity play, Spencer could have locked up MS console exclusivity for the next 3 COD releases for maybe £5 billion," Deering said, adding that "if this was a play to end run PS5, et cetera, I think it was massively overvalued and will not meaningfully succeed. I guess MS can piss away that kind of valuation without being more harmed than helped, but I am not losing a wink of sleep over the future for our baby."

Deering added in a PS note that Microsoft "would have been better off announcing a new electric car."

Jim Ryan's response to this email had been revealed earlier in the hearings, and he agreed at the time that the deal was "not an Xbox exclusivity play at all" and that he was confident Call of Duty would remain on PlayStation for "many years to come." He added that "I'm not complacent and I'd rather this hadn't happened, but we'll be OK, more than OK."

That's a notably different tone than the one Ryan would take in public soon afterward, repeatedly skewering Xbox's offers to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation and taking a central role in opposing the buyout as a threat to PlayStation's longevity. 

This week's hearings have also revealed Jim Ryan's claims that publishers "unanimously do not like Game Pass."

Dustin Bailey
Staff Writer

Dustin Bailey joined the GamesRadar team as a Staff Writer in May 2022, and is currently based in Missouri. He's been covering games (with occasional dalliances in the worlds of anime and pro wrestling) since 2015, first as a freelancer, then as a news writer at PCGamesN for nearly five years. His love for games was sparked somewhere between Metal Gear Solid 2 and Knights of the Old Republic, and these days you can usually find him splitting his entertainment time between retro gaming, the latest big action-adventure title, or a long haul in American Truck Simulator.