In the latest volley over the Xbox Activision deal, Sony's raising concerns that Microsoft might deliberately degrade the PlayStation versions of future Call of Duty games.
This comes from Sony's comments (opens in new tab) on the UK's Competition Markets Authority remedies notice in February, which have just been made public. As Florian Mueller of the FOSS Patents blog (opens in new tab) notes, Sony's noting some pretty incendiary concerns here.
Even if Microsoft commits to continue publishing Call of Duty on PlayStation, Sony says the company "could adopt one or several partial foreclosure strategies to impair PlayStation's competitiveness." For example, Microsoft could end up "degrading the quality and performance of Call of Duty on PlayStation compared to Xbox."
Sony has a lot of examples of how that could happen. There could be bugs and glitches. A game might not make as heavy use of PS5 features like controller haptics as it otherwise might. Microsoft could simply not prioritize investment in multiplayer on PlayStation.
Perhaps most strikingly, Sony says "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. 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."
I'm no lawyer, but any deliberate attempt by Microsoft to make Call of Duty worse on other platforms seems unlikely. The backlash from players would be quick and severe, and the damage to Xbox's reputation would be difficult to undo. Plus, Microsoft already runs Minecraft as a multiplatform game without issues, and that one's arguably much bigger than Call of Duty.
But Sony says that even "even without an active decision on the part of Microsoft to degrade Call of Duty on PlayStation," problems could arise. "Even if Microsoft operated in good faith, it would be incentivised to support and prioritize development of the Xbox version of the game, such as by using its best engineers and more of its resources." Sony argues that it would be practically impossible for a regulatory body to monitor for that kind of infringement.
The new filings release also let us know that Call of Duty: Mobile is expected to be phased out as Warzone Mobile is released.