Next few 'Call of Duty' games will be on PlayStation

Jason Schreier
Bloomberg News (TNS)

Activision Blizzard Inc. will release at least the next three games in its hit video game franchise "Call of Duty" on Sony Group Corp.’s PlayStation, even after the publisher was bought by rival Microsoft Corp. 

Before news of the $69 billion acquisition broke last week, Activision had already committed to make the next few "Call of Duty" games available on Sony’s console, in addition to Microsoft’s Xbox, according to four people with knowledge of the deal, speaking anonymously because they were not authorized to speak to press.

That includes this year’s Call of Duty, expected to be a new entry in the popular Modern Warfare sub-series being developed by Infinity Ward, and the following game, which is in development at Treyarch, both Activision-owned studios. The deal also includes a planned new iteration of "Call of Duty Warzone," the lucrative free-to-play game that was released in 2020.

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Phil Spencer, who was recently appointed chief executive officer of Microsoft Gaming, said last week that he had spoken to Sony leadership about the franchise. “I confirmed our intent to honor all existing agreements upon acquisition of Activision Blizzard and our desire to keep 'Call of Duty' on PlayStation,” he said on Twitter. “Sony is an important part of our industry, and we value our relationship.”

But gamers have been wondering what those “existing agreements” were.

Traditionally, "Call of Duty" games have been released on Xbox, PC and PlayStation, where they drive substantial sales. "Call of Duty" games have received heavy promotion on the PlayStation store and been tied to massive marketing deals in recent years. Every game in the annual franchise ranks among the top-selling games on PS4 and PS5. "Call of Duty" games have been the bestselling titles in the U.S. each of the last three years, according to the NPD Group.

People wait in line of to see a demonstration of Call of Duty WWI at the Activision exhibit on opening day of the Electronic Entertainment Expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center on June 13, 2017, in Los Angeles, California. (David McNew/Getty Images/TNS)

For at least the next two years, Microsoft is committed to releasing "Call of Duty" on PlayStation, the people said. Neither Sony, nor Activision responded to requests for comment. Microsoft declined to comment.

Plans are hazier for the "Call of Duty" games further out, said the people familiar with the matter. Microsoft said it expects the acquisition to close sometime in the next six to 18 months, after which it will be able to decide whether to continue releasing future "Call of Duty" games on PlayStation. Top employees at Activision have also discussed spacing out "Call of Duty" releases rather than putting them out every year, Bloomberg has reported.

Eventually, Microsoft could deprive its biggest gaming rival of an integral franchise. With some previous acquisitions, Microsoft has honored existing contracts then pivoted.

In 2020, following its acquisition of the game publisher Bethesda Softworks, the tech titan said it would retain all existing contracts and release the previously announced Bethesda games "Deathloop" and "Ghostwire: Tokyo" on PlayStation. But a few months later, when Microsoft unveiled new Bethesda games "Starfield" and "Redfall," they were exclusive to the Xbox and Microsoft Windows PCs. New games from other studios Microsoft bought recently, such as Obsidian Entertainment, have also skipped the PlayStation.