Update - March 15: Activision chief communication officer Lulu Cheng Meservey has clarified when and where Sony chief Jim Ryan reportedly told the publisher that "I just want to block your merger" with Microsoft.
In a new tweet discussing a story from Polygon, Meservey clarified that there was no "gentleman's agreement" to keep any comments around the company's recent Brussels meeting confidential, and more to the point, that Ryan's comment "was not part of the closed door hearing" to begin with.
"Our side has not shared info from the hearing and doesn’t plan to," Meservey said. "Even if people take Sony’s side of the issue, they should know we respect confidentiality."
"Same day, same place, but not part of the hearing or subject to any agreement on confidentiality, formal or informal," she added.
Meservey has not disputed the wording of Ryan's comments, which represent a surprisingly blunt counter to negotiations over the pending deal – or perhaps unsurprisingly blunt, given the many ways Sony has called out Microsoft over previous deals.
As it happens, earlier today Microsoft announced its fourth 10-year deal in four weeks in its ongoing attempt to push the acquisition through.
Original story follows...
An Activision exec claims that Sony chief Jim Ryan said he had no interest in an improved deal over Call of Duty and was simply focused on blocking the Xbox Activision deal.
In a tweet yesterday, Activision chief communication officer Lulu Cheng Meservey - who has previously been posting through it in an attempt to help pass the merger - posed a rhetorical question: "We've [...] offered Sony guaranteed long-term access to Call of Duty. But they keep refusing. Why?"
The CEO of SIE answered that question in Brussels.In his words: "I don’t want a new Call of Duty deal. I just want to block your merger.”March 8, 2023
According to Cheng Meservey, the answer to that question was provided on February 21, when Microsoft and Sony's executives met in Brussels, reportedly in an attempt to hammer out details of the deal. On that day, Microsoft confirmed its deal to bring Call of Duty to the Nintendo Switch, and announced an additional, similar agreement with Nvidia GeForce Now, but it seems they didn't make much headway with Sony. Cheng Meservey claims that Ryan told Xbox and Activision that "I don't want a new Call of Duty deal. I just want to block your merger."
Microsoft has provided Sony with multiple deals over Call of Duty, and while a 'forever' agreement will likely never be on the table, Phil Spencer has suggested he's happy to offer Sony a longer-term deal if that'll help swing things, but Ryan's comments suggest Sony isn't interested in giving up any market share if it can avoid doing so.
The fate of the merger is still unclear. The UK's Competition and Markets Authority has suggested that Xbox could get the deal over the line by agreeing to sell off parts of Activision-Blizzard, but that's an idea that Microsoft leadership has been firmly against. Increasingly, however, it looks like it's on Microsoft to find ways to convince antitrust regulators rather than Sony, a company that has made it clear it's prepared to burn bridges to quash the deal - even going so far as to suggest that Microsoft might provide its customers with a sabotaged version of future Call of Duty titles. If Cheng Meservey's tweet accurately represented Ryan's words, it looks like Sony isn't prepared to give up any ground.
Want to see the future of Microsoft's console? Here's our list of upcoming Xbox Series X games.