Microsoft leaps to its own defense as anti-competition concerns mount about Activision Blizzard takeover

Microsoft Activision Blizzard

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) -- the competition regulator in the UK -- has voiced concern about Microsoft's proposed takeover of game publisher Activision Blizzard.

The CMA is worried that the merger of two such huge companies in a $68.7 billion deal "could substantially lessen competition in gaming consoles, multi-game subscription services, and cloud gaming services". Windows 11 maker Microsoft, it almost goes without saying, entirely disagrees, and Phil Spencer, CEO of gaming at the company, has penned a blog post explaining just why this it.

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Spencer starts off by pointing out that: "Our announcement in January that we intend to acquire Activision Blizzard was an important milestone in our journey to do so. Since then, regulators, game developers and players have been asking what the acquisition means for the industry and, most importantly, for players".

Far from limiting competition, Microsoft believes that the deal will enable it to offer gamers and the industry more choice:

While we love consoles, we recognize that they are not the only way that people play games. Today, the largest and fastest growing segment of gaming is mobile platforms. To reach the billions of players where they are and no matter what device they play on, we need to embrace choice. Giving players choice in how they play their games makes gaming more accessible and leads to larger, more vibrant communities of players. Choice is equally important to developers. Developers benefit from having a diversity of distribution and business models for their games. Choice unlocks opportunities for innovation and enables the industry to grow.

We are expanding choice in two ways: through the creation of Game Pass, which gives players a subscription option; and by bringing more games to mobile platforms, including through our cloud game streaming technology. Subscription services like Game Pass make gaming more affordable and help players from all over the world find their next favorite game. Game Pass empowers developers to bring more games to more players, not fewer.  We intend to make Activision Blizzard's much-loved library of games -- including Overwatch, Diablo and Call of Duty -- available in Game Pass and to grow those gaming communities. By delivering even more value to players, we hope to continue growing Game Pass, extending its appeal to mobile phones and any connected device.

Spencer goes on to say:

Bringing more games to mobile platforms, however, requires new capabilities. The expertise that the teams at Activision Blizzard bring in developing games for mobile platforms will help us understand how to create games that engage players around the world. In addition, we hope that players will be eager to play traditional console games from Activision Blizzard on other platforms via our cloud game streaming technology. This promises to open up mobile gaming, creating new distribution opportunities for game developers outside of mobile app stores while delivering compelling and immersive experiences for players by using the power of the cloud. And we can extend the joy of playing to devices that people already own, including Smart TVs and laptops.

In doing so, we will pursue a principled path. We've heard that this deal might take franchises like Call of Duty away from the places where people currently play them.  That’s why, as we’ve said before, we are committed to making the same version of Call of Duty available on PlayStation on the same day the game launches elsewhere.  We will continue to enable people to play with each other across platforms and across devices. We know players benefit from this approach because we’ve done it with Minecraft, which continues to be available on multiple platforms and has expanded to even more since Mojang joined Microsoft in 2014.  As we extend our gaming storefront across new devices and platforms, we will make sure that we do so in a manner that protects the ability of developers to choose how to distribute their games.

Microsoft says that during the review process it "will continue to engage with regulators with a spirit of transparency and openness". The company will also, it seems, be engaged in an active public relations exercise to promote its belief that "the combination of Microsoft and Activision Blizzard will benefit the industry and players".

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