According to Head of Xbox Phil Spencer, Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard is a move that intends to serve gamers by keeping their needs firmly in sight.
Microsoft’s proposed merger with triple-A gaming studio Activision Blizzard has seen the company battling concerns that the merger would do more harm to the gaming industry than good. But, in an interview for the podcast Second Request (opens in new tab), Spencer explained that, despite scrutiny from regulatory bodies, he believes that Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of the Call of Duty publisher will ultimately benefit gamers if allowed to go ahead.
“From the beginning of me being in this role, thinking about how we’re going to grow Xbox and what our role is in gaming, we’ve tried to put the gamer at the center of all our decisions,” Spencer said. “To me, it seems the regulator [opposing the merger] is looking out for what’s best for consumers, but this deal is in the best interest of gamers.”
Among the fears of US and European regulators alike are complaints that Microsoft would actively impede their rivals’ business, preventing Sony or Nintendo console users from accessing Activision flagship titles by turning them into Xbox exclusives.
Paved with good intentions
One of the biggest questions surrounding the proposed merger with Activision Blizzard arose after it acquired Bethesda’s parent company ZeniMax in 2021: whether Microsoft will end up taking major titles away from other consoles. In the interview with Second Request, Spencer used the ZeniMax merger as an example of how Microsoft has no intention of doing this with Activision Blizzard titles.
“All of the ZeniMax games we said would ship on PS5, we have,” he said, referencing how Microsoft has continued to support cross-platform updates for Elder Scrolls Online and Fallout 76. “There’s not a single game from ZeniMax that we’ve had pulled from PlayStation.”
Spencer also commented on how Microsoft has respected agreements made between ZeniMax and its competitors pre-purchase, suggesting that Microsoft can be trusted to stay true to its word. “The first two games we shipped from ZeniMax [after the merger] were actually PS5 exclusives, and those are just contractual. Sony signed a deal to exclude those games from Xbox, and we’ve lived up to [that commitment].”
That being said, we know that upcoming Bethesda-made games such as Starfield will be Xbox-exclusive titles. This means they will ship only to Xbox and PC platforms. Spencer reiterated that first-party games are nothing new, stating that “exclusives are part of the history of how people sell consoles”.
His comments were geared more toward alleviating fears that Microsoft would restrict core Activision titles to Xbox consoles alone, should the merger pass. “How we want to grow and nurture those [flagship] franchises, pulling a game like Call of Duty off the largest console platform is totally at odds with all of that.”
In the interview, Spencer emphasized Xbox’s commitment to providing a consistent, fun, and varied experience for its cross-platform gamers. “[Xbox Game Pass] allows them to play great games on the devices they want to play on,” he said, later commenting on the major differences between Xbox and PlayStation being evidenced by their shipping day-one releases directly to PC and Xbox players via Game Pass.
Spencer also hinted at his desire to access the mobile gaming scene. This is, consequently, one of the core reasons Microsoft might wish to purchase Activision: it would allow Xbox to further immerse itself in the mobile games space. “The place we’re completely irrelevant is on the largest platform, [which is] mobile,” Spencer said, suggesting that should the Microsoft/Activision merger go through, this would be something Microsoft would pursue.
You’ve been served
Despite Spencer’s efforts to push the merger as a good thing, since the podcast has aired the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has filed a complaint in an effort to block Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard.
The redacted complaint (opens in new tab) outlines the FTC’s concerns that Microsoft would use the merger as a means to impact the markets and its competitors negatively. Despite Spencer’s comments about Xbox exclusives being “nothing new”, the FTC’s complaint highlights the regulatory body’s concern that Microsoft went back on assurances made to the European Commission (EC) during an antitrust hearing. During the hearing, the company claimed it would not withhold ZeniMax games from rival consoles, however, both Starfield and Redfall are set to be Xbox console exclusives.
Although this lawsuit could threaten the proposed merger and end up blocking it, Microsoft will get to plead its case before a judge.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by PostX Digital and is published from a syndicated feed.)