The Bombshell PlayStation Email About Call Of Duty Exclusivity

PlayStation boss Jim Ryan has been fighting Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard tooth-and-nail, claiming it jeopardizes Call of Duty on PlayStation 5. But in a private email when the deal was first announced, Ryan apparently wrote that he didn’t think it was an “exclusivity play” to take away Call of Duty, and that Microsoft was “thinking bigger than that.”

The previously unreported email was discussed by Microsoft’s lead lawyer in its current court hearing fighting a proposed injunction by the Federal Trade Commission on its attempted $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard. Ryan, who became head of Sony Interactive Entertainment in 2019, was apparently discussing the deal while writing to Chris Deering, the former president of PlayStation Europe.

“It is not an exclusivity play at all,” Ryan wrote according to Microsoft’s lawyer. According to IGN, the email was dated January 20, 2022, just two days after the acquisition was announced. “They’re thinking bigger than that and they have the cash to make moves like this. I’ve spent a fair bit of time with with [Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer] and [Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick] over the past day, and I’m pretty sure we will continue to see [Call of Duty] on PlayStation for many years to come.”

This seems to fly in the face of arguments Sony has made publicly and to regulators that the deal would lead to Call of Duty potentially becoming an Xbox exclusive or running worse on competing platforms if it’s completed. Last September, Ryan blasted the reported terms of an initial proposal by Microsoft to keep bringing Call of Duty to PS5, calling it adequate.

“Microsoft has only offered for Call of Duty to remain on PlayStation for three years after the current agreement between Activision and Sony ends,” he said in a statement. “After almost 20 years of Call of Duty on PlayStation, their proposal was inadequate on many levels and failed to take account of the impact on our gamers. We want to guarantee PlayStation gamers continue to have the highest-quality Call of Duty experience, and Microsoft’s proposal undermines this principle.”

In March of this year, Sony also argued to regulators in the UK that Microsoft would have incentive to make the next Call of Duty worse on PS5. “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,” the company argued. “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.” An Activision executive had previously accused Ryan of confessing to just wanting to kill the deal at all costs in a discussion behind closed doors.

While Ryan’s private remarks don’t directly contradict that possibility, they do call into question the authenticity of the arguments the company has been making publicly. Of course, Microsoft’s motive in revealing the content of the email is also clear: it wants the Activision Blizzard deal to go through so it can make more money.


1 Million PlayStation Owners Only Play Call of Duty

Would you buy an expensive console just for one video game? Probably not. However, according to Sony, about 1 million PlayStation owners only play Call of Duty. That’s it. Nothing else.

The ongoing trial between Microsoft and the FTC follows after Xbox’s lawyers and execs spent more than a year trying to convince various governments to let the company buy Call of Duty and Warcraft publisher Activision Blizzard for $69 billion. The current court hearing isn’t about blocking the deal, but instead pausing it so the FTC has more time to “evaluate the antitrust merits” of the case. And as the hearing has gone on, more and more internal documents, emails, and depositions have been released, giving us juicy details about the companies involved.

For example, in a letter from PlayStation boss Jim Ryan to the FTC, we learn all sorts of interesting data on how many people are playing Call of Duty across PlayStation consoles. And yes, in this letter, Ryan says that in 2021 “about 1 million users spent 100% of their gaming time” playing just Call of Duty.

As reported by The Verge, Ryan also says that about 6 million PlayStation gamers spent more than 70% of their gaming time playing just Call of Duty. And on average, in 2021, Call of Duty players sunk over 100 hours a year playing CoD. Sony supplied these numbers to show that if Call of Duty was to become an Xbox exclusive, it would financially hurt the company and punish PlayStation players who mostly (or only) play CoD. Of course, other internal emails reveal that Sony probably isn’t that worried about losing Call of Duty. 

As someone who plays countless games across every platform I own, the idea of spending 70% or even all of your gaming time on one video game seems hard to comprehend. There are so many amazing games, many free ones too, that these players could check out. Some of these games are even shooters, just like Call of Duty. But nope! Instead, these people bought a PlayStation console, hooked it up, installed Call of Duty-whatever-edition-it-was-that-year, and just played that. Wild.

The Call of Duty data wasn’t meant for the public to see

Oh and here’s something funny: You and I shouldn’t even know any of these stats! 

The documents where these stats originate from were part of a series that weren’t properly redacted by whoever was meant to do that. The likely error, as theorized by some online, is they used a cheap marker that didn’t completely block out the important bits. Whoops! But we all benefit from that marker mishap and now we know more than we shouldn’t.

A similar thing happened earlier this week involving some Microsoft docs that showed other companies the tech giant was looking to acquire next. That was published without any redactions which was, seemingly, a mistake as a later version was redacted. All this secret knowledge slipping into my fingers via poorly redacted documents is quite fun. I feel like a spy in a movie. A boring movie about video game sales data, but still, a spy movie!

Did Microsoft Just Announce A PlayStation 5 Slim And Pro?

It’d be fairly weird if Sony didn’t announce a PlayStation 5 Slim in the coming months. The console will be three years old by then, and that’s generally the pattern. But it’d definitely be very weird if instead, Microsoft were the company to reveal it. Which might be what just happened.

According to court documents, released as part of the FTC trial regarding Microsoft’s apparently eternal acquisition of Activision Blizzard, the Beast of Redmond is expecting Sony to release a PS5 Slim “later this year,” and even names a price: $399.99.

In a section of the document tantalizingly subtitled “The Console Market Must Include Nintendo,” Microsoft is taking issue with the FTC’s position that Xbox and PlayStation are in a two-horse race because “they are offered at a similar price.” This, they say, is “unpersuasive,” on the basis of previous Supreme Court rulings (uh-oh), but also that the FTC’s analysis “considers only the high-end models of Xbox (Series X) and PlayStation (standard edition), thereby ignoring the differentiation within Xbox’s console lines.” They make the point that a Series S and a Switch cost the same, and their budget model is fifty bucks less than a Switch OLED.

But then, with a canny dismissiveness, they throw in at the end of the paragraph:

PlayStation likewise sells a less expensive Digital Edition for $399.99, and is expected to release a PlayStation 5 Slim later this year at the same reduced price point.

The line comes with a footnote adding, “Sony is also anticipated to release a handheld version of the PlayStation 5 later this year for under $300.”

This would be Sony’s Project Q, for which they’ve revealed almost nothing, let alone a street date or price!

A short while later, Microsoft also throws in the reveal of a PS5 Pro for good measure.

PlayStation, meanwhile, currently offers two different versions of the PlayStation 5—one with a Blu-Ray player for physical media (Standard) and one without (Digital)—and is anticipated to release further differentiated Pro and Slim models in the near future.

While anyone making an educated guess might expect at least an announcement of newer models of the PS5 this year, it’s Microsoft’s naming a price that makes the remarks seem so emphatic—egregious even.

We have of course contacted Sony to ask if they’d like to confirm Microsoft’s announcement of their next consoles.

PlayStation 5 Handheld Looks Even Goofier Than Expected In Leak

The PlayStation 5 is absolutely killing it right now. Record-breaking hardware sales? Check. A steady stream of popular and critically praised exclusives? Check. Customizable faceplates? Check, check, check. So of course it’s gearing up to release one of the most absurd handhelds ever to reach the manufacturing assembly line. Project Q, its recently revealed remote play handheld, has leaked out in the wild and it looks and functions exactly like you’d expect a DualSense controller with an 8-inch screen on it to.

Leaked footage of the device in action was shared online over the weekend by tech enthusiast account Zuby. Short videos and a few photos revealed what appeared to be an Android-based operating system as well as an inside view of some of its internals. But the thing I can’t get over is just how funny it looks. Project Q really is just a DualSense split in two with an LCD tablet grafted onto it. It’s 2023 and Sony, at the height of its gaming prowess, decided to make its own Wii U gamepad.

An endless barrage of memes made this exact point when Sony officially unveiled the PS5 accessory in a throwaway segment right before Spider-Man 2 took the stage at its May showcase. But actually seeing the thing in someone’s hands as they flick between home screen icons is like the difference between seeing the juicy 8-ounce sirloin on the Applebee’s menu and watching someone pick at it on their plate in a TikTok video (as many have noted, the final layer of UI is likely to be more PlayStation-ized by release).

Look, I love handhelds, and I’m excited to see what Project Q can offer. Can I stream Final Fantasy VII Rebirth at 60fps uninterrupted while in bed? Can I do that for under $300? Or more preferably, just north of $200? If so, I’m on board, no matter how silly the device itself seems, or how niche the market for it is. It’s not like I’ll actually be able to leave the house with it anyway, given the reported 3-4 hour battery life and generally terrible state of WiFi and mobile internet in the U.S.

Sony has said the device will launch later this year, though gaming insider Tom Henderson has pointed to November 2023 as the more specific target. Just in time for the “All I Want for Xmas is A Project Q” redux.


PlayStation Plus Is About To Get A Lot More Expensive

Key art shows a bunch of popular PlayStation exclusives.

Image: Sony

PlayStation Plus is about to get a lot more expensive. Sony announced that, beginning in September, the annual subscription price will go from $60 up to $80 for the lowest tier of the program. Meanwhile PS Plus Premium, which competes directly with Game Pass by offering a big Netflix-style library of games and cloud streaming, will jump from $120 all the way up to $160.

Sony buried the news at the bottom of a new PlayStation Blog post sharing the PS Plus games getting added for September, which includes 2022’s Saints Row reboot. “We also wanted to let you know that starting September 6 we will be increasing the price for PlayStation Plus 12-month subscriptions globally across all benefit plans,” the company wrote. “This price adjustment will enable us to continue bringing high-quality games and value-added benefits to your PlayStation Plus subscription service.”

Here’s the breakdown of the price increases:

PS Plus Essential

Old Yearly Price: $60

New Yearly Price: $80

PS Plus Extra

Old Yearly Price: $100

New Yearly Price: $135

PS Plus Premium

Old Yearly Price: $120

New Yearly Price: $160

These changes won’t impact current subscribers until their renewal date and don’t apply to the pay-as-you-go monthly prices or 3-month price. The annual subscriptions will still be cheaper than the monthly ones, but less so. Previously, you could save a whopping $96 off the sticker price by getting a whole year of PS Plus Premium. Now it’s only $56.

The move comes shortly after Microsoft jacked up the prices on Game Pass from $15 a month to $17 (there’s no annual discount). Even with the PS Plus rate change, a year of Premium is still $44 cheaper than a year of Game Pass. While both services offer many of the same features, one of the defining differences remains Microsoft’s committment to putting its big first-party exclusives on the service day-and-date.

The most notable one of those will be Starfield which arrives on September 6, or five days early for Game Pass subscribers who spend $30 to upgrade to the game’s Premium Edition. Sony has previously stated that doing the same with blockbusters like Spider-Man 2 would be financially unsustainable, and force it to cut the costs and potential quality of its acclaimed first-party games.


The Elder Scrolls VI Definitely Isn’t Coming To PlayStation

Two characters from The Elder Scrolls shed a tear while standing in front of a forest.

Image: Bethesda Game Studios / Kotaku

Elder Scrolls VI won’t be coming to PS5 whenever it finally debuts. Though you might’ve already filed this news under “well, duh,” it’s now clear as day courtesy of official documentation from Microsoft.

Originally announced at E3 2018 (which Bethesda’s own Todd Howard thinks was perhaps a tad too early), The Elder Scrolls VI will mark the first single-player entry in the fabled Elder Scrolls series of big-ass open-world RPG romps since the undying colossal success that was 2011’s Skyrim. News on the TES6 front has otherwise been very quiet, and Bethesda only just released its other epic, long-in-development RPG, the space-themed Starfield. New reporting from Axios’ Stephen Totilo, however, makes it clear that TES6 will be an Xbox and PC exclusive.

The Elder Scrolls VI targets a 2026 release

PlayStation-owning fans of Bethesda jams have been holding out hope that despite Microsoft’s purchase of Bethesda in 2020, Elder Scrolls VI might still come to a Sony machine. CEO of Microsoft gaming Phil Spencer has said as recently as September 6 that the company considers exclusives on a “case-by-case basis” and that it “wants to make sure that [its] games are available in so many different places.”

As per a post on X (formerly Twitter) from Stephen Totilo of Axios, Microsoft’s communications during the FTC case concerning its controversial Activision merger spelled out that The Elder Scrolls VI is coming to Xbox and PC only. In a Microsoft-confidential chart that saw release due to the legal proceedings, The Elder Scrolls VI clearly has a big ol’ red X in the “Released on PlayStation?” column.

The same chart indicates that The Elder Scrolls VI is aiming for a 2026 or later release date. Given the size and scope of Bethesda games, they do take a long time to make. After The Elder Scrolls VI, Bethesda is expected to release Fallout 5.

So, sorry PlayStation Skyrim fans. But, hey, at least you got a head start on Baldur’s Gate 3. And given TES6’s likely release window, at least you’ll have enough time to save up for an Xbox or gaming-worthy PC? Hey, don’t look at me. I’m just the messenger.

PlayStation Boss Jim Ryan Stepping Down Amid Great PS5 Sales

The head of PlayStation is stepping down, Sony announced in a press release today. Jim Ryan, Sony Interactive Entertainment’s CEO, is retiring after just four years on the job. The massive shakeup in leadership comes as the PlayStation 5 breaks sales records and as Sony has doubled-down on prestige blockbuster games like The Last of Us Part 1 and Marvel’s Spider-Man 2.

“After 30 years, I have made the decision to retire from SIE in March 2024,” Ryan said in a statement. “I’ve relished the opportunity to have a job I love in a very special company, working with great people and incredible partners. But I’ve found it increasingly difficult to reconcile living in Europe and working in North America.”

Ryan will officially leave the position in April, 2024. Hiroki Totoki, Sony Group Corporation President, COO and CFO, will help with the transition and take on the role of interim CEO of PlayStation once Ryan leaves, and will help with the search for his successor. The news was first reported by Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier.

A 30-year veteran of Sony, Ryan was promoted to the top PlayStation job in 2019 after a re-organization saw head of CEO of Worldwide Studios, Shawn Layden, step down, and President of Worldwide Studios, Shuhei Yoshida, transition into a more background role working with indie game developers.

As head of PlayStation, Ryan oversaw the launch of the PS5, which despite pandemic-era shortages, is now on pace to break sales records thanks to an ongoing lineup of first-party exclusive blockbusters like Horizon Forbidden West and God of War Ragnarök. His tenure also included the launch of PS VR2, as well as a major pivot by the subscription service PS Plus to more directly compete with Xbox Game Pass’ Netflix-like library of games.

The unexpected departure comes just a couple months after Sony signed a 10-year agreement with Microsoft to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation following the tech giant’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard. Despite a vicious regulatory fight in the U.S. with the Federal Trade Commission and in the UK with the Competition and Markets Authority, both of which included testimony by Ryan, the historic deal is likely set to close beginning in October.

“Jim Ryan has been a great contributor to our industry and a fierce leader for PlayStation,” Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer tweeted. “I wish him the best in what he does next. Thank you for all you’ve done for the community over the last 30 years, Jim.”

Here’s the full press release:

Sony Group Corporation and Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) today announced that SIE President and CEO Jim Ryan has made the decision to retire in March 2024 after almost thirty years with the PlayStation business. To support Mr. Ryan in his transition, Sony Group Corporation President, COO and CFO Hiroki Totoki will assume the role of Chairman of SIE effective October 2023. Effective April 1, 2024, Mr. Totoki will be appointed Interim CEO of SIE while he continues his current role at Sony Group Corporation. Mr. Totoki will work closely with Sony Group Corporation Chairman and CEO Kenichiro Yoshida and the management team of SIE to help define the next chapter of PlayStation’s future, including the succession of the SIE CEO role.

Jim Ryan joined Sony Interactive Entertainment’s Europe-based legal entity, Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe (SIEE) — which was then Sony Computer Entertainment Europe — in 1994. Since then, he has held a number of senior positions at the company including President of SIEE, Head of Global Sales and Marketing at SIE and Deputy President of SIE since January 2018, before being appointed SIE President and CEO.

Comment from Kenichiro Yoshida

“Jim Ryan has been an inspirational leader throughout his entire period with us, but never more so than in overseeing the launch of PlayStation 5 in the midst of the global COVID pandemic. That extraordinary achievement made by the entire SIE team has been steadily built on and PlayStation 5 is on track to become SIE’s most successful console yet. I’m immensely grateful to Jim for all his achievements. Respecting Jim’s decision to finish his long career at Sony leaves me with an important decision regarding his succession given the significance of the Game & Network Services business. We have discussed intensively and have determined the new management structure. We aim to achieve Sony Group’s further evolution and growth through bringing even greater success to the Game & Network Services Business.”

Comment from Jim Ryan

“After 30 years, I have made the decision to retire from SIE in March 2024. I’ve relished the opportunity to have a job I love in a very special company, working with great people and incredible partners. But I’ve found it increasingly difficult to reconcile living in Europe and working in North America. I will leave having been privileged to work on products that have touched millions of lives across the world; PlayStation will always be part of my life, and I feel more optimistic than ever about the future of SIE. I want to thank Yoshida-san for placing so much trust in me and being an incredibly sensitive and supportive leader.”

Comment from Hiroki Totoki

“I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to Jim Ryan for his outstanding achievements and contributions over his 30-year career at Sony, including the great success of launching the PlayStation 5. The PlayStation business managed by SIE is an essential part of Sony Group’s entire business portfolio. I will work with Jim and the senior management team closely to ensure our continued success and further growth. I am also looking forward to creating the exciting future of PlayStation and the game industry together with everyone at SIE and its business partners.”

Update 9/28/2023 2:02 p.m. ET: Added a tweet by Phil Spencer.


Collectible Maker Says Sony Ordered PlayStation Merch Destroyed

A video game-themed collectible storefront claims Sony ordered it to destroy all of its licensed PlayStation-themed merchandise, chief among them being statues based on The Last Of Us Part II, God of War, and Bloodborne.

On Tuesday, Hong Kong-based collectible storefront Gaming Heads posted an open letter on its official Twitter account and on the home page of its website alleging that Sony had suddenly requested the destruction of its PlayStation collectibles, which Gaming Heads claims Sony had already received royalty payments for. In the open letter, which states that Sony offered no reasoning for the decision, Gaming Heads name-dropped PlayStation’s commercial partnerships manager, including her email address and encouraging customers to reach out to her about their “(now canceled) order, payments, refunds.”

“We have worked with Sony PlayStation for more than 10 years to bring you some of the best video game collectibles and have been trying hard to get them to change their mind,” Gaming Heads wrote. “They know you have paid your hard-earned money for items that are ready to ship to you or that are in production but unfortunately, after doing all that we can, they have told us not to ship your orders to you – ‘our business priorities remain unchanged’ (a recent direct quote from Sony).”

Kotaku reached out to Sony and Gaming Heads for comment.Despite Gaming Heads’ assertion that “this is Sony PlayStation’s decision, not ours,” some customers replied to the company’s post in anger at them, saying they’re the ones being scummy for trying to route refund inquiries to Sony, the licensor, instead of handling it themselves as the storefront they had purchased the collectibles from.

“When I preordered the Joel and Ellie statue, that was a transaction with Gaming Heads. Not Sony,” Trevor Adams replied on Twitter. “You need to refund the money we all gave Gaming Heads to produce these products. Don’t tell us to go to your licensor to get it. What you’re doing is illegal.”

“Telling customers to contact Sony for refunds and giving out Judy’s email address seems very shady and unprofessional,” Twitter user NextGenPlayer wrote. “Customers transacted with your company, not the licensor Sony. This reeks of fishyness and isn’t the whole story here.”

“Customers made business with Gaming Heads, not with Sony. So you guys have to refund. It’s as easy as that,” Thomas Mueller wrote under Gaming Heads’ open letter Facebook post.

“Refund YOUR customers!! They have nothing to do with Sony. They bought a product from you. Not them. How dare you make your problem the customers’ problem!!” Melanie Willems wrote.

Gaming Heads responded to many comments of this nature on Twitter and Facebook, asking customers to reach out to Sony about refunds.

Updated: 10/02/23, 10:15 a.m. ET: Article was updated to remove the name of a Sony employee at the company’s request.

Sony Adds Free Movies To Most Expensive PlayStation Plus Tiers

An image shows the Sony Pictures Core app on a flatscreen television placed next to a PlayStation 5.

Image: Sony

Today, Sony announced a new app coming to PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 consoles that’ll offer PlayStation Plus Premium and Deluxe members access to a bunch of Sony Pictures Entertainment films.

Sony Pictures Core, a rebrand of Sony’s streaming service Bravia Core, will let PlayStation users purchase or rent up to 2,000 Sony films “straight from your console.” The offerings include big-name titles like Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Uncharted, Bullet Train, and Ghostbusters: Afterlife. You can download the Sony Pictures Core app in the Media section of the PS Store on your console. And depending on your Playstation Plus subscription tier, a select assortment of those may be available to you for free.

According to the PlayStation blog post, PS Plus Premium and Deluxe subscribers will receive the added bonus of an ad-free, curated list of 100 films like Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV and Resident Evil Damnation, which will be updated “periodically” to stream as part of your membership. Sony also announced that Sony Pictures Core will have an “early access” window where folks can purchase films like Gran Turismo, the app’s first exclusive movie, before they become available on any other on-demand home video service.

Read More: The Gran Turismo Movie Is Part Cringey Playstation Commercial, Part Endearing Underdog Story
Buy a PlayStation 5: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop

Toward the end of the blog post, Sony teased “additional benefits” to come for PlayStation Plus members in the future, saying:

We hope you’ll enjoy Sony Pictures Core and all the films that will be accessible through the app. It’s part of our shared goal with Sony Pictures Entertainment to bring together this curated collection of wonderful films to elevate the PlayStation experience. This is just the beginning, and we plan to evolve the offerings and benefits of Sony Pictures Core over time—including a selection of hit anime content from Crunchyroll. We’re looking forward to more exciting things to come, so stay tuned!

The app is available today. Bravia Core will officially rebrand as Sony Pictures Core next year.

Spider-Man 2 Fastest-Selling PlayStation Studio Game In History

Peter and Miles web-sling in front of a red backround.

Image: Insomniac Games / Sony

Sony has proclaimed Spider-Man 2 is the fastest-selling PlayStation Studios game in the company’s history. The PlayStation 5 exclusive sold 2.5 million copies on launch day alone.

Order Marvel’s Spider-Man 2: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop

Released on October 20, Spider-Man 2 is Sony’s first major first-party blockbuster to launch only on the PS5, rather than cross-gen on the PS4, which has over double the install base. With just over 40 million PS5s sold so far, that makes the initial sales success of the web-slinging sequel even more impressive.

Read More: Spider-Man 2 Dev Hints Insomniac Is Open To A Venom Spin-Off

Reviews have been glowing so far, including Kotaku’s. Despite some misgivings about bloat and a lack of experiementation, I mostly loved my time with Spider-Man 2. The game currently has a 91 on Metacritic, making it one of the most posivitively recieved of 2023. A post-launch update coming by December is expected to add more features like a new game plus mode.

The original Spider-Man released in 2018, selling 3.3 million units in three days. That narrowly edged out God of War’s record at the time of 3.1 million in the same period. God of War Ragnarok reclaimed the title of fastest selling PlayStation Studios game last year with 5.1 million sales in its first week. We’ll see if Spider-Man 2‘s 24-hour record leads to even greater sales over that same period.

Sony is currently aiming to sell 25 milion PS5s in the current fiscal year, which would itself be a record-breaking number of new console sales. It’s no doubt relying on Spider-Man 2 being a “next-gen” exclusive to help drive those sales throughout the holiday season, despite competition from a number of other stellar games this year. A new “slim” model dropping in November might also help, despite an increased price tag for the all-digital version.

Insomniac Games hasn’t yet revealed if Spider-Man 2 will be getting future DLC or a bigger expansion in the vein of Horizon Forbidden West’s Burning Shores adventure. The studio did say it’s checking fan feedback to the game as it plays around with the possibility of a Venom spin-off.

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