Microsoft's been on a tear recently, offering anyone and everyone 10-year Call of Duty contracts like it's going out of style. Nintendo and Nvidia have both penned deals with the US tech giant in recent months, ensuring that COD will keep appearing on those companies' platforms for at least a decade to come should Microsoft's acquisition of Activision Blizzard go through. Microsoft has also offered the same deal to Sony and Steam in the past, but those two shot it down, the former because it won't settle for anything less than stopping Microsoft's acquisition, and the latter because Gabe Newell didn't really see the point.
But it turns out that might be enough for the EU. Three sources tell Reuters that Microsoft's deal spree will probably be enough "to address EU antitrust concerns" surrounding the Activision acquisition, clearing the way for European regulators to greenlight the deal at some point in the future. Of course, it's still likely that Sony will do whatever it can between now and then to change that.
The spate of COD deals have been part of an attempt by Microsoft to convince regulators across the world that it can be trusted to be a responsible steward of Activision's myriad properties. Many of Sony's complaints—and regulators' concerns—about the deal have revolved around the possibility that Microsoft might cut off its competitors' access to COD, a fear that Microsoft has been keen to assuage. Insofar as the EU is concerned, it seems to have worked.
I have to wonder if Sony might regret making such a fuss about COD in particular, rather than the broader implications of the deal as a whole. It's not that I don't believe Sony is worried about COD, but I've always figured that it chose to base its campaign around the series because it was immediately recognisable, something that would garner mainstream press coverage and whose possible departure from PlayStation would spook Sony fans. But, if Reuters' sources are right, it's presented Microsoft with a pretty easy regulatory problem to fix: All it has to do is commit to contracts like the ones with Sony and Nvidia to stop people worrying.
But the fight's not over yet, even if the EU is set to wave the acquisition through. Microsoft still has to mollify the US Federal Trade Commission and the UK Competition and Markets Authority, the latter of which suggested that Activision be broken up before Microsoft would be allowed to acquire it. That wasn't a final ruling—both regulators could still be persuaded like the EU apparently has been—but Microsoft still has its work cut out to get this over the line.