Microsoft Now Owns Call of Duty: How Did That Happen?
Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard and its catalogue of blockbuster games, including Call of Duty, Diablo, and more, has finally been approved by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).
The 2-year acquisition tussle between Microsoft and governing bodies involving the US Federal Trade Commission and CMA ended on October 13, 2023. The acquisition was sealed at a record-breaking fee of $68.7 billion.
Initially rejected in April 2023, the deal was revised to meet CMA’s requirements and address some of the monopoly concerns raised.
From court cases to video gamers’ protests, let’s dive into the push to buy Activision Blizzard, the many times the deal nearly derailed, and how it was finally approved and completed.
During the pandemic, gaming became one of the best forms of escape from boredom when everyone was locked in. Searches for video games, consoles, new releases, and casino online in the UK went up.
If it could be enjoyed from home, people wanted it. Microsoft saw the writing on the wall. As the maker of the Xbox console, which faces stiff competition from Sony’s PlayStation, Microsoft wanted to ensure that they secured some of the world’s biggest games.
After several acquisitions targeting some leading studios, Activision Blizzard came into Microsoft’s crosshairs. The deal would come with conditions to soften the acquisition deal and keep the regulators who were on the lookout for monopoly concerns at bay.
Lawsuits and protests initially arose from governing bodies, and Microsoft competitors worried that Activision Blizzard would only be available on Xbox after the merger. The deal could lead to a monopoly and a rough experience for PlayStation owners.
Back in January 2022, Sony rejected a deal by Microsoft to keep some of the most popular games on Activision Blizzard, including Call of Duty, on PlayStation until 2027. Talks between Microsoft and Sony didn’t bear any fruits.
Sony’s former PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan claimed that Microsoft had chosen the older, more popular titles to remain on PlayStation. He even gave an example of Overwatch which was on the list with the current version of the game; Overwatch 2 not appearing on the list.
Call of Duty gamers were not left out of this controversy. While some had no worries about the platform hosting their favorite video games, others wanted to play them only on PlayStation.
They would not want them transferred elsewhere in fear of the gaming experience being altered. There was also a lawsuit filed by a group of video gamers from Chicago claiming that the merger by Microsoft would harm gaming.
The protesting group added that the move would reduce consumer preferences, limit output, raise prices, and make competition unfavourable to rival companies like Sony.
In response to concerns, Microsoft made considerable amendments to the deal. They relinquished exclusive rights to release Activision Blizzard games on Xbox Cloud Gaming.
They also withdrew the exclusive control of licensing ActiBlizz games for rival services. Additionally, Microsoft proposed a deal transferring cloud streaming rights for existing and new Activision Blizzard games to Ubisoft for the next 15 years.
The deal would allow non-Windows cloud gaming services to offer these games to players.
Microsoft’s changes to the deal gave them a decisive advantage in gaining CMA’s approval. The CMA emphasized preserving competition, innovation, and choice in cloud gaming.
With the deal approved, Microsoft gained access to major games like Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, and Diablo. There was also a significant step in enabling cloud streaming in the European Economic Area to fulfil a commitment made by Microsoft to the European Commission.
Microsoft buying Activision Blizzard might make Sony work harder to put their unique games on PC. For instance, games like “The Last of Us,” “Uncharted,” “God of War,” and the “Horizon” series have started coming to PC.
This is Sony’s last attempt to compete with Xbox’s Game Pass following the acquisition. Sony could also keep its games only on PlayStation to maintain its market share and control.
The acquisition will likely impact the gaming industry and influence console competition and PC gaming. Microsoft’s ownership of major IP could entice PlayStation owners to consider Xbox or Game Pass. It also puts pressure on Sony to enhance its first-party offerings.
The future may witness PlayStation exclusives coming to PC to compete with Game Pass or to maintain exclusivity and drive PlayStation sales. The CEO of Microsoft Gaming, Phil Spencer, said that he had always admired the work of Activision Blizzard and King and was honored to welcome them to the Xbox ecosystem.
It will be exciting to see new high-quality game installments from Xbox Studios. PlayStation enthusiasts may find themselves enticed to get an Xbox console as a secondary option gaming platform just to access the globally renowned and highly acclaimed first-person shooter game, “Call of Duty,” among other blockbuster games.