Xbox boss Phil Spencer has released a new one blog post detailing plans for Call of Duty and other Activision Blizzard franchises, below: today’s announcement from the UK Competition and Markets Authority that they will be scrutinizing the deal in detail.
As you’d expect, Call of Duty, Overwatch, and Diablo will be available via Xbox Game Pass, Spencer said, if and when Microsoft’s $68 billion purchase of Activision Blizzard is complete.
Spencer also made assurances that Xbox is “committed to making the same version of Call of Duty available on PlayStation the same day the game launches elsewhere”.
“We will continue to allow people to play with each other across platforms and across devices,” continued Spencer – his advice is to expect uninterrupted Call of Duty crossplay.
Of course, the timing of this blog post has been designed to coincide with a decision this morning by CMA that it will now refer to the Microsoft-Activision deal for a more detailed investigation, citing concerns surrounding some of the issues Spencer discusses here.
Spencer’s blog makes a lot of mention about “choices” – for example the choice to play Call of Duty via Game Pass, or the alternative on PlayStation – the possibility of countering any suggestions that actively hinder competition.
This morning, the CMA wrote that Activision games – and “especially Call of Duty” are “important and capable of making a material difference to the success of rival gaming platforms”, in particular the PlayStation.
CMA expressed concern over the continued availability of Call of Duty on PlayStation, and that, post-merger, Xbox could potentially use its ownership of the franchise to “harm the competitiveness of its competitors” by offering it through its subscriptions.
Spencer’s blog doesn’t name the UK CMA, but offers a clear response – above Microsoft’s own – to today’s news in mentioning the ongoing work with regulators.
“We will continue to engage with regulators in a spirit of transparency and openness as they review this acquisition,” Spencer wrote. “We respect and welcome difficult questions to be asked.”
Spencer also makes a cheeky note that Microsoft isn’t the only company currently involved in mergers and acquisitions — so far.
“Today’s gaming industry is strong and dynamic. Industry leaders, including Tencent and Sony, continue to expand their deep and extensive library of games and other entertainment brands and franchises, enjoyed by players everywhere.
“We believe that a thorough review will show that the combination of Microsoft and Activision Blizzard will benefit the industry and players alike,” Spencer concluded.
In a separate statement, Microsoft president Brad Smith said the company was “ready to work with CMA on the next steps and address any concerns”.
“Sony, as an industry leader, has said it’s worried about Call of Duty, but we’ve said that we’re committed to making the same game available on the same day on Xbox and PlayStation,” continued Smith. “We want people to have more access to games, not less.”
Activision Blizzard boss Bobby Kotick meanwhile says he “still believes”[s] deal will most likely close” before June 2023.
“This appears to be an aggressive move towards antitrust protections from CMA, particularly in relation to suggesting the separation of subscription and cloud services into their own markets,” video game industry attorney Richard Hoeg told Eurogamer today. “However, given the current political environment on digital market access and ‘big tech’ in general, it’s unlikely that Microsoft will fail to anticipate it.
“While the complications, I don’t expect it to cancel the deal, and UK concessions will likely be set to reflect the possible settlement/approval decision negotiations are being or will be with other major regulatory authorities. I still see the deal closing sometime next year.”