Xbox boss Phil Spencer has posted a new blog post detailing plans for Call of Duty and other Activision Blizzard franchises, following today’s announcement by the UK Competition and Markets Authority that it will examine the deal in detail.
Unsurprisingly, Call of Duty, Overwatch and Diablo will be available through Xbox Game Pass, Spencer said, provided Microsoft’s $68 billion purchase of Activision Blizzard is completed.
Spencer also guaranteed that Xbox was “committed to making the same version of Call of Duty available on PlayStation the same day the game is released elsewhere.”
“We will continue to allow people to play with each other across platforms and devices,” Spencer continued, and the suggestion is to expect seamless Call of Duty cross-play.
Of course, the timing of this blog post has been designed to coincide with this morning’s decision by the CMA that it will now refer the Microsoft-Activision deal for further investigation, which cited concerns about some of the issues Spencer discusses. here.
Spencer’s blog makes numerous mentions of “choice”, for example the option to play Call of Duty via Game Pass or alternatively on PlayStation, which likely combats any suggestion that he was actively hampering the competition.
This morning, the CMA wrote that Activision’s games, and “especially Call of Duty,” were “important and capable of making a material difference to the success of rival gaming platforms,” singling out PlayStation in particular.
The CMA expressed concern about the continued availability of Call of Duty on PlayStation and that, after the merger, Xbox could use its ownership of the franchise to “hurt the competitiveness of its rivals” by offering it through its subscription.
Spencer’s blog doesn’t mention the UK CMA by name, but it offers a clear response, other than Microsoft’s, to today’s news in a mention of its 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 tough questions being asked.”
Spencer also makes a cheeky note that Microsoft isn’t the only company currently involved in mergers and acquisitions, by far.
“The gaming industry today is strong and dynamic. Industry leaders, including Tencent and Sony, continue to expand their deep and extensive libraries of games, as well as other entertainment brands and franchises, enjoyed by gamers around the world.
“We believe that a comprehensive review will show that the combination of Microsoft and Activision Blizzard will benefit the industry and gamers,” Spencer concluded.
In separate statements, Microsoft Chairman Brad Smith said the company was “ready to work with the CMA on the next steps and address any of their concerns.”
“Sony, as an industry leader, says it’s concerned about Call of Duty, but we’ve said we’re committed to making the same game available on the same day on both Xbox and PlayStation,” Smith continued. “We want people to have more access to games, not less.”
Meanwhile, Activision Blizzard boss Bobby Kotick said he “still believes[s] the deal is more likely to close” before June 2023.
“This looks like an aggressive version of the CMA’s antitrust protection, especially with regard to the suggestion to separate cloud and subscription services into their own markets,” games industry lawyer Richard Richard told Eurogamer today. Hoeg. “That said, given the current political environment in both digital market access and ‘big tech’ in general, Microsoft likely hasn’t failed to anticipate it.
“Although it is a complication, I don’t expect it to spoil the deal, and the UK concessions will probably be arranged to reflect the agreement/consent decree negotiations that are likely to be or will be in process with the other major regulatory authorities. I continue to see a deal that closes sometime next year.
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