Xbox's acquisition of Activision is very bad news for PlayStation

Xbox's acquisition of Activision is very bad news for PlayStation

At the beginning of 2022 we learned, not without surprise, that Microsoft was starting a takeover procedure to acquire Activision Blizzard, the famous publisher in charge of the Call of Duty and World of Warcraft licences. Around the world, the transaction is being studied in great detail to ensure that such a financial move would not upset the balance of the video game industry and competition with PlayStation. While the case seemed to be moving forward quickly, the UK decided to launch a more in-depth investigation into the integration of Activision into the Redmond firm's armada of studios. Could we finally be facing a takeover that is far from being a done deal?

PlayStation weakened?

This Thursday, we were able to learn that the British competition authority, the CMA, was considering the possibility of opening a more in-depth investigation into the takeover of Activision Blizzard by Microsoft for the tidy sum of $68.7 billion. . The British organization has raised many concerns to which it wishes to obtain answers quickly. In a 35-point summary, the CMA expressed its concerns about this project, which could significantly impact Microsoft's competition(therefore mainly PlayStation) in the video game market. Today, PlayStation is a solid leader in terms of sales of hardware and games on next-generation consoles. However, the regulator is concerned about the impact that could really be felt when the next generation of consoles is launched in several years, when users will have to choose between the two manufacturers.

Following the conclusion of this phase of its investigation, the regulatory body clearly indicates that it fears that Microsoft will end up abusing its position of power against PlayStation by owning incredibly popular games such as those from the Call of Duty license . We recall that since the release of the first Modern Warfarein 2007, almost every new installment in the military saga finds itself on the podium of the best-selling games of the year on the PlayStation consoles, and that the micro transactions resulting from the activity of the players on these titles represent a significant part of the Japanese company's turnover. In light of Microsoft's dominant position in the subscription and cloud gaming market, British institutions believe it is more than likely that adding such a catalog to Xbox's arsenal could allow them to harm at PlayStation . Some of the committee members are concerned that Microsoft may be in a strong enough position toprevent anyone from trying to join them on the very recent market of subscription systems, or from forcing already well-established players to accept the arrival of Game Pass on their platform or risk saying goodbye to the lucrative license.

Microsoft and Activision officials reacted to the issues raised by the CMA and expressed their willingness to cooperate with all PlayStation players, recalling elements they had previously defended before regulators in Brazil.

We have heard that many people are concerned that this takeover could deprive a large part of the players of the licenses that they like to play. That's why, as we've said in the past, we're committed to ensuring that Call of Duty will continue to release on PlayStation machines, in the same condition and on the same date as on our systems. We know gamers benefit from this approach because that's what we're doing with Minecraft , which has continued to be available across multiple platforms since Mojang joined Microsoft in 2014.

Phil Spencer

Although no one goes so far as to question the sincerity of Phil Spencer's remarks, the British commission wanted to recall that the same kind of speech had been made during the acquisition of ZeniMax Media, but that this had not not prevent the American giant from making the publisher's next games, Starfield and Redfall , entirely exclusive to the Microsoft ecosystem . This case-law therefore requires great vigilance.

Microsoft and Activision remain confident

Despite this little public hiccup, the two American companies still show great confidence in the feasibility of the merger. Activision Chief Executive Bobby Kotick has maintained that everything is on track to finalize the deal within Microsoft's fiscal year ending June 30, 2023. Microsoft and Activision have until September 8 to provide a convincing response to the CMA, in order to avoid the start of a more in-depth investigation into the repercussions that the takeover could have for PlayStation. The Redmond company intends to continue to make it clear that the non-marketing of a license like Call of Duty at the competitor's would be complete economic nonsense, as well as a huge loss of profitability. Also according to Bobby Kotick, other countries should soon announce publicly that they validate the operation. This is in any case what he specifies through a letter sent to all his employees.

While the FTC, the CMA and the European Commission continue their analyzes and their debates on this transaction, it should be recalled that, last month, Saudi Arabia became the first country to validate the operation. This decision by the Saudi regulatory authorities is a first positive signal as to the conclusion of this case and comes to counterbalance the return of the British body . Microsoft Vice President Brad Smith was quick to step up and said he was ready to address any concerns raised by the CMA. In particular, he confirmed Microsoft's deep desire to apply Phil Spencer's promises regarding the availability of Call of Duty on the consoles of the Japanese rival company.

While we will not question the sincerity of Microsoft's word, despite what we have seen with the false promises around Bethesda licenses, we cannot deny that owning the Activision Blizzard licenses will place the teams of Phil Spencer in a position of strength on each of the negotiations with Jim Ryan, who will not be able to put Call of Duty day one on PlayStation Plus as Xbox will on Game Pass (which undoubtedly tips the balance towards Microsoft, although it arrived). In the event of a validated takeover, the Japanese company would risk living permanently with the threat of losing the presence of Call of Dutyon its consoles, hence the need to overcome financial dependence on Activision's military license. What if Bungie takeover was the price of liberation for PlayStation?