According to reporting from Resetera (sourced from Mlex), the EU commission has offered a stark rebuke to the FTC’s decision to launch a lawsuit to halt the Activision-Blizzard acquisition. Defending their own decision to approve the previous Microsoft/Zenimax acquisition, they noted that they had not taken into account whether future game releases would affect anti-competitive practices.
In a quote attributed to the EU commission they note that their previous decisions were not invalidated due to current concerns “The absence of competition concerns 'did not rely on any statements made by Microsoft about the future distribution strategy concerning ZeniMax's games,' said the commission, which itself has opened an in-depth probe into the Activision Blizzard deal and appears keen to clarify what happened in the previous acquisition.”
The Acquiblizz Saga rolls on
The main argument for the FTC’s decision has been that Microsoft has shown their commitment to keeping games non-exclusive was broken already, citing the case of the Bethesda titles Redfall and Starfield. However, the EU commission points out that neither of these were marketed as being anything but Xbox-exclusive for the majority of their lifetime.
However, as Justin Carter at Game Developer argues in his report on this story, it could be suggested that both of these games came from companies that did not have a history of exclusivity. Meaning they had a ‘community’ or expectation of accessibility before exclusivity was announced. Which may undermine Microsoft’s argument somewhat.
“However, the fact of the matter is that both games already had communities the moment they were announced. Starfield marks Bethesda Game Studios' first new property in decades (and its first console title since 2018's Fallout 76), and Redfall hails from Arkane, makers of cult classics such as Prey and the Dishonored franchise.”
Additionally, there is also the question about whether the Elder Scrolls 6, the hotly anticipated new entry into the Elder Scrolls franchise, will be Xbox exclusive. With both Xbox boss Phil Spencer and Bethesda producer Todd Howard swinging back and forth on whether the game will release on PlayStation 5 when it does hit storefronts.
As we’ve pointed out previously however, mobile gaming seems set to form a major part of this deal. If we are to see concessions, it would likely be in the console and PC markets in order for Microsoft to secure the valuable foothold in the market that ownership of King alongside Activision-Blizzard would give them.
Phil Spencer previously noted how he felt that they were ‘irrelevant’ in the mobile space, and that the Activision-Blizzard acquisition would dramatically increase their presence in mobile gaming. However, with the visibility of console and PC being the main story, it’s unclear whether or not Microsoft will step back, even in the face of regulator scrutiny that has caused the deal to roll on for close to a year now.