Lawyer explains why Microsoft’s end goal might be Xbox Game Pass on PS5

Theo Salaun
Microsoft / Sony

An entertainment lawyer has broken down what Microsoft’s true end goal may be in terms of exclusivity following the purchase of Activision Blizzard. As he sees it, this could all lead to Xbox Game Pass on PS4 and PS5.

On January 18, Microsoft shocked practically everyone by purchasing Activision Blizzard for a reported $70 billion. While the deal’s effects aren’t immediate, it does mean that portfolio games like Call of Duty, Overwatch, and World of Warcraft will fall under Microsoft’s umbrella by June 2023.

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The gaming world’s reaction, outside of surprise, has quickly trended toward the exclusivity conversation. While Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer discussed concerns over Xbox-exclusivity, his answers were fairly ambiguous.

With Call of Duty players particularly worried about exclusivity, the questions haven’t quieted. Entertainment lawyer Simon Pulman has a theoretical answer, though: CoD won’t have to be Xbox-exclusive if Sony implements Game Pass – which just might be Microsoft’s goal.

Can Microsoft bring Xbox Game Pass to PS5 and PS4?

xbox game pass logo on a black backgroundMicrosoft
Game Pass is one of Xbox’s biggest draws at the moment.

In a LinkedIn thread, Pulman (who is a Partner at Cowan, DeBaets, Abrahams & Sheppard LLP) discussed what the Microsoft acquisition could mean. Given CoD’s prominence in North America, he honed in on the franchise’s future.

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In one comment, Pulman explained that “Call of Duty now being Xbox-exclusive and day one Game Pass starting in 2023/24 is transformative for the gaming business in Europe and NA.”

While this is a reasonable take, and one that PS players are likely worried about, Pulman doesn’t believe it’s Microsoft’s true end goal. As he explained, the possibility gives Microsoft the negotiating power to pull something even bigger off: “This provides massive leverage for Microsoft to get what I believe it really wants: Game Pass on PlayStation.”

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Warzone flame gun bugTreyarch/Activision
Call of Duty remains one of the most-played games on PS4 and PS5, making Xbox exclusivity a real concern.

Pulman’s theory does hold some interesting weight. When asked about Xbox exclusivity, Spencer said “to players out there who are playing Activision Blizzard games on Sony’s platform: It’s not our intent to pull communities away from that platform.”

Not making their games Xbox-exclusive would be an easy way to let those communities stay on PlayStation. A more profitable alternative would likely be to use their leverage and get Sony to implement Game Pass on their systems.

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While it remains unclear how negotiations will unfold, the Game Pass idea is an intriguing one. With Microsoft’s Bethesda franchises (like Starfield and Elder Scrolls) already hinting toward exclusivity, the possibility of Sony losing titles like CoD and Overwatch isn’t far-fetched. 

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About The Author

Théo is a former writer at Dexerto based in New York and built on competition. Formerly an editor for Bleacher Report and philosophy student at McGill, he fell in love with Overwatch and Call of Duty — leading him to focus on esports for Dex.