Microsoft Hits Back As Things Heat Up in the Activision Blizzard Acquisition

The Holidays are just days away, but before everyone takes a well-deserved break prior to 2023, Microsoft has responded to the FTC regarding the contentious Activision Blizzard purchase.

Microsoft has published its response to the FTC’s lawsuit regarding the Activision Blizzard acquisition. Similar to Microsoft’s response to the UK’s CMA. The gloves are now seemingly off as Microsoft has pointed out that Sony has been adding “exclusion” terms on deals for third-party games on Playstation for years. This includes titles like Final Fantasy 7 Remake, Final Fantasy 16, Silent Hill 2 Remake, and From Software’s Bloodborne, which will most likely never see the light of day on an Xbox console.

According to Microsoft:


“In addition to having outright exclusive content, Sony has also entered into arrangements with third-party publishers which require the “exclusion” of Xbox from the set of platforms these publishers can distribute their games on. Some prominent examples of these agreements include Final Fantasy VII Remake (Square Enix), Bloodborne (From Software), the upcoming Final Fantasy XVI (Square Enix) and the recently announced Silent Hill 2 remastered (Bloober team).”

Microsoft

It’s odd that the FTC as well as the CMA have taken the position of protecting Sony, which is the market leader, and have been adding exclusionary terms in contracts with third-party publishers, blocking popular titles from appearing on competing platforms. That seems anti-competitive to me, but not to the FTC and CMA apparently.

All in all, it appears that Microsoft is preparing to build a case and fight this in court if the FTC and CMA attempt to block the deal. According to the terms of the merger, Microsoft would owe Activision Blizzard $2 to $3 billion if the deal is blocked by regulators. So it is pretty safe to assume that Microsoft is not just going to give up.

Surprise – 75% of Respondents to UK Regulator Survey Approve Microsoft’s Activision Purchase

Microsoft continues to push forward with its planned acquisition of Activision, despite challenges from regulatory agencies. Today it received some good news from the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority.

The UK Competition and Markets Authority requested feedback from the public on Microsoft’s purchase of Activision Blizzard. The regulatory group reviewed responses from over 2,100 and 75% were in favor of the acquisition.

Below are some of the views expressed by the respondents:

  • Sony and Nintendo are stronger than Microsoft in console gaming, and the Merger will help Microsoft to compete more closely against them.
  • The Merger will not harm rival consoles because Microsoft has made public and private commitments to keep Activision content, including Call of Duty, non-exclusive. The availability of Minecraft on rival consoles shows that Microsoft’s commercial strategy is not to make games exclusive; 1 The CMA received approximately 2,600 emails, but some of these were excluded from our review because they contained abusive content (with no other substantive content), or were blank, unintelligible, stated to be from non-UK consumers, or not in English.
  • It is unlikely that Microsoft would make Call of Duty exclusive due to its multiplayer nature. Making Call of Duty exclusive to Xbox would only create a gap in the market that could be filled by a rival cross-platform shooter game.
  • Call of Duty has competition from a number of other games including Battlefield (Electronic Arts), Grand Theft Auto (Take Two), and FIFA (Electronic Arts).
  • The Merger will push Sony to innovate, such as by improving its subscription service or creating more games to compete with Call of Duty.
  • The Merger is a reaction to Sony’s business model for PlayStation, which has historically involved securing exclusive content or early access to popular cross-platform gaming franchises, such as Final Fantasy and Silent Hill.
  • Microsoft’s plans to add Call of Duty to Game Pass are pro-competitive and will lower the price of accessing games for consumers.
  • Microsoft would not make Activision’s content exclusive to Xbox post-merger because it would lose significant potential revenue from rival platforms.
  • Consumers could revert to buying games on a buy-to-play basis if Microsoft were to raise the price of Game Pass post-Merger.
  • The Merger will lead to more funding and higher-quality games in the industry.
  • The Merger will allow Microsoft to provide Activision with better guidance and leadership, and encourage it to invest more in games other than Call of Duty.
  • The Merger is pro-competitive in the mobile segment because it will create new options for mobile gamers and allow Microsoft to compete against Google and Apple, which are the two dominant mobile platforms.
  • The Merger will not create competition concerns in cloud gaming services because there are other potential competitors, such as Netflix.
  • Some industry participants have said they are not opposed to the Merger.

This is certainly an interesting development and may pave the way for approval of the acquisition in the UK.

Microsoft President Says Sony Is Acting Like Blockbuster Video During the Rise of Netflix

Microsoft President and Vice Chairman Brad Smith has called out Sony’s stance against Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard in a The Wall Street Journal op-ed comparing them to the failed video rental chain.


“Sony has emerged as the loudest objector… It’s as excited about this deal as Blockbuster was about the rise of Netflix… Think about how much better it is to stream a movie from your couch than drive to Blockbuster. We want to bring the same sort of innovation to the videogame industry.”

WSJ

It is really starting to appear that Microsft is not going to back down from this acquisition. They have agreed to concessions on the deal in the EU, offering to keep Call of Duty on Playstation for 10 years. Now, according to the New York Post, FTC insiders are claiming that of the four-person panel currently investigating the proposed deal, two may be looking to side with Microsoft. This now splits voting 2-2.

Lina Khan, the Federal Trade Commission chairperson has even floated the idea of suing Microsoft over the proposed acquisition. However, former FTC chairperson William Kovacic told the New York Post regarding a lawsuit to block the merger: “Lina [Khan] would probably not put things in a position for that to take place, so instead of having that vote she would make the motion to approve the settlement.”

So in the end it looks like Microsoft will make concessions for the US, similar to the EU, to keep Call of Duty on Playstation for the foreseeable future, which is really in their best interests anyway.

Looks like Playstation Boss Jim Ryan racked up the frequent flier miles protesting the deal for nothing.

[Source: WSJ & New York Post]

TCL Really Wants You To Buy a New TV for Xbox Series X PRO and PlayStation 5 PRO – Really?

Consumer electronics company TCL, which makes decent TVs at competitive price points, really wants you to believe that Sony and Microsoft are going to be refreshing the PS5 and Xbox Series X soon. So you really should be considering upgrading your boob tube.

According to Polish news outlet PPE, TCL presented at an electronics conference in Poland and the company believes that a “PS5 Pro” and “new Xbox Series X|S” will arrive between 2023 and 2024.

TCL’s presentation showed a history of consoles, starting with the original PS4 and Xbox One in 2013. TCL then notes that the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X were released a few years later. The presentation goes on to show the launch of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S in 2020. Naturally, that means a refresh should come out next year or so, right? RIGHT!?!

At the end of TCL’s presentation, they claim that Series X / PS5 PRO will provide 60-120 FPS resolution at 4K, and have the ability to display 8K. TCL also believes that the new consoles will have AMD Radeon RX 7700 XT technology. Shit, the TV that I bought specifically for my PS5 and Xbox Series is a total piece of shit now. I should consider buying a fancy new TV from TCL.

Sorry, TCL, but I think a mid-generation refresh is a bit further out, given that the current builds of the Xbox Series X and PS5 are still relatively hard to come by.

Nice try though.

Xbox Sees Massive Jump in Sales According to NPD

Even though videogame sales saw an overall decrease of 8% between January and March of this year, compared to 2021, most likely because folks are returning to work from the pandemic, Xbox hardware sales saw a massive increase in the US compared to the same time last year.

And when we say massive, we mean fucking massive, to the tune of a 92% increase, according to the NPD.

The NPD Group’s consumer spending report for Q1 2022 shows that hardware spending has decreased by 15% compared to Q1 2021, however, Xbox hardware saw a huge 92% increase.

NPD has given no specifics for the increase, but the fact that you can actually find an Xbox Series S on store shelves easily, and the Xbox Series X is attainable relatively easily online are certainly possibilities. Who knew, if you make your shit available, people will buy it.

Even though the Xbox is doing well, it cannot touch the mighty Nintendo Switch, which was the best-selling console during the same time frame in terms of total units sold.

[Source: NPD]

Microsoft Plans to Release the Xbox Streaming Stick Within the Next Year

Microsoft is planning to release the rumored Xbox Streaming Stick within the next 12 months. The Xbox Streaming Stick will allow users to stream Xbox Game Pass games to your TV without a dedicated console.

The Xbox Streaming Stick aligns with Microsoft’s “Xbox Everywhere” initiative, to get Xbox Cloud Gaming and Xbox Game Pass into as many connected devices as possible. Microsoft is also partnering with Samsung to develop an Xbox Cloud Gaming app for the TV manufacturer. This will allow Samsung TV owners to stream Game Pass titles without a streaming stick.

The Xbox Streaming Stick was initially revealed during E3 2021, but things have been quiet since then. Looks like Microsoft has been quietly ramping and perhaps an announcement is imminent.

[Source: VentureBeat]

Fortnite is Playable Again on Mobile Thanks to Xbox Cloud Gaming

Playing Fortnite on a mobile device has been a real pain, if not impossible since Epic started its legal fight with Apple and Google due to their app store fees. However, things are going to be much easier now, as Epic Games has partnered with Microsoft to get the title onto Xbox Cloud Gaming. Fortnite is officially the first free-to-play title on Xbox Cloud Gaming.

Now, anyone who wants to play Fortnite on mobile just needs a Microsoft account, an iOS device or Windows PC, and an internet connection to play via browser. Also, there’s no need to subscribe to Xbox Game Pass since Fortnite will remain free-to-play.

I’m not a fan of Fortnite, because I’m a grown-ass man, but it is cool to see Epic and Xbox partner up to bring the game back to mobile.

[Source: Microsoft]

Intel CEO Believes Global Chip Shortage Will Last Until 2024

The Xbox Series X and Playstation have been hard finds for over a year since they launched. A global chip shortage is one of the many reasons for the short supply, and according to Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger, the short supply will continue until 2024.

In a recent interview on CNBC Data Check, Gelsinger who previously mentioned that the chip shortage will last until 2023 has updated his prediction, tacking on another year. Mr. Gelsinger believes that shortages are likely to continue because essential manufacturing tools are not readily available, so manufacturing cannot keep up with increasing demand.

“That’s part of the reason that we believe the overall semiconductor shortage will now drift into 2024, from our earlier estimates in 2023, just because the shortages have now hit equipment and some of those factory ramps will be more challenged…”

– Pat Gelsinger via CNBC

For what it’s worth, things do seem to be improving as availability has improved. One can’t simply walk into a store and purchase a new Xbox Series X or PS5 easily, but if you stay on your toes, patient gamers are finding them online.

On the Xbox Series X|S front, in particular, people are getting their hands on console. Could be the reason why they are selling so well. Who would have thought.

[Source: CNBC]

After Microsoft Announces that Ads Are Coming to Free to Play Games on Xbox, Sony Follows Suit

Last week, it was reported that Microsoft is working on a program that will allow ads in free-to-play Xbox games. Internal sources have stated that the ads wouldn’t disrupt gameplay and will be similar to billboards in a racing game, as to be unobtrusive.

Of course, whenever Microsoft does something hot button, the Playstation fanboys hem, and haw and go on and on and fucking on until I puke. Then all of a sudden Sony announces that they’re doing the same thing and all is quiet.

The in-game ads on Playstation games are expected to launch by the end of this year and similar to the Xbox, will be limited to inconspicuous areas, like the aforementioned billboards

[Source: Insider]

GoldenEye 007 Xbox Achievements Have Appeared Online – Announcement Imminent?

Achievement tracking website, TrueAchievements has revealed that two accounts by the names “BIGsheep” and “xtinamcgrath” have unlocked achievements in an unannounced Goldeneye 007 on Xbox. It also just so happens that the Gamertags “BIGsheep” and “xtinamcgrath” belong to Rare employees James Thomas and Christina McGrath.

Of course, this could mean nothing, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

[Source: TrueAchievements]