Sony has unintentionally provided a peek into its PlayStation operations. Amid the Federal Trade Commission’s ongoing examination of Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard, a document from PlayStation head Jim Ryan was mistakenly released. This document, intended to be redacted, shed light on Sony’s publisher margins, Call of Duty earnings, and the cost of creating some of its proprietary games.
Regrettably, the method of redaction – using a black Sharpie – proved insufficient. The document scan revealed the redacted information. While the court removed the document, it was downloaded and viewed by reporters and Sony’s competitors during its short time in the public domain.
Among the unveiled data, the document disclosed that Sony’s Horizon Forbidden West cost $212 million to develop over five years with 300 employees. The Last of Us Part II was produced with around 200 employees for $220 million.
Sony’s relationship with Call of Duty was also brought to light. The company claimed that one million PlayStation gamers exclusively play the Call of Duty franchise. The document also indicated that Call of Duty players spent an average of 116 hours per year on the game in 2021, with heavy users averaging 296 hours.
The disclosure of this data was Sony’s attempt to demonstrate the significant revenue impact if Call of Duty became an Xbox exclusive. Sony has consistently expressed concerns in various filings to regulators about Microsoft potentially monopolizing Call of Duty or sabotaging its PlayStation versions.
The financial impact was further detailed by accidentally revealing Call of Duty’s worth to PlayStation. The popular franchise accounted for $800 million of PlayStation’s revenue in the US alone in 2021, and it appears to have contributed $1.5 billion globally. Counting accessories, subscriptions, and related sales, the document suggests a total revenue of up to $15.9 billion annually.
The document also hinted at Sony’s revenue sharing with third-party publishers like Activision, with a possible typical margin of 10%. It also seemed to suggest that Sony’s own first-party games constituted around 14% of total PlayStation games sold.
In a surprising revelation, the document disclosed that Sony has only one more Call of Duty game as part of its exclusive marketing deal with Activision, set to be released in late 2023.
Moreover, Sony’s document revealed some intriguing statistics about console ownership. Almost half of PlayStation 5 owners in the US also own a Nintendo Switch. At the same time, less than 20% of PlayStation 5 owners also have an Xbox Series X or S. This data provides crucial context for the FTC and Microsoft’s ongoing debate over whether the Switch competes directly with the Xbox and PS5.
Sony isn’t alone in this series of unintentional revelations, though. Earlier this week, a confidential Microsoft document exposed all the company’s intended Xbox acquisition targets. The document has since been replaced with a heavily redacted version.
Stay tuned for more insights as this intriguing story unfolds, providing rare insights into the secretive world of gaming industry giants.