Microsoft’s Xbox now owns Call of Duty, Guitar Hero and Candy Crush, some of the world’s most popular video games, after it completed its acquisition of Activision Blizzard in a $69 billion deal, one of the largest in gaming history. But the company was keen to reassure gamers on Friday that the games will be available on other consoles.
The merger had been blocked by regulators who were concerned that Microsoft ownership of Activision would result in anticompetition in the gaming landscape as the tech behemoth could control access to the world’s most-played games.
On Friday, this all changed, after the U.K. watchdog the Competition and Markets Authority, one of the last hurdles for the deal, granted it permission to go ahead.
Microsoft agreed to sell cloud gaming rights to French company Ubisoft in August, meaning that it will not have exclusive streaming rights to the products it would now own from Activision. That move assuaged the anti-competitive concerns of the CMA. The British agency regulator was the last remaining regulatory hurdle to the deal.
“With the sale of Activision’s cloud streaming rights to Ubisoft, we’ve made sure Microsoft can’t have a stranglehold over this important and rapidly developing market,” Sarah Cardell, CMA’s chief executive of the CMA, said in a statement. “As cloud gaming grows, this intervention will ensure people get more competitive prices, better services and more choice.”
What does this mean for gamers?
Activision owns some of the most played games in the world. In addition to the Call of Duty series, Candy Crush and Guitar Hero, it also published Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater franchise and World of Warcraft. Millions of people play these games across platforms— mobile, desktop—and consoles. As of June 2023, Activision said it had 356 million monthly active users.
Gamers played these games on a variety of platforms including on Microsoft’s Xbox, the tech behemoth’s rival Sony’s PlayStation and Japan’s Nintendo.
Video game players have been worried that the merger would lead to non-Xbox users being excluded from having access to Activision’s games.
“It’s making me feel like I need to switch to a whole different ecosystem in order to play the games that I was already playing,” Johnathan Schoepf, a PlayStation gamer based in Cincinnati, told The New York Times. “Microsoft has come and consolidated a huge part of the industry, two of the major publishing studios, and now is restricting their output on rival consoles.”
Microsoft has been keen to communicate that it will ensure the games are available across platforms.
“Whether you play on Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo, PC or mobile, you are welcome here – and will remain welcome, even if Xbox isn’t where you play your favorite franchise,” Phil Spencer, CEO of Microsoft Gaming, said in a statement on Friday. “Because when everyone plays, we all win.”