Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard - and it subsidiary, mobile gaming giant King - has been one of the biggest developing stories in the games space in the past few years, and one we’ve followed with great interest due to its mobile ramifications.
And, once again, pushing that mobile agenda and speaking to Eurogamer at Gamescom, Xbox CEO Phil Spencer stressed that the prime motivation for the deal is mobile.
"The reason we're in the acquisition discussion with Activision Blizzard King is around their mobile capability," said Spencer. "Because it's just something we don't have.”
"We obviously already have Call of Duty on our platform, we already have Diablo on our platform. So it's not about new games that Xbox players don't have access to today. It is about a capability on mobile, and some broader ambitions that we have on the largest gaming platform, which is mobile phones."
A foolproof plan?
Spencer has always fiercely maintained the mobile aspect of the deal, but - so far - the UK CMA don't agree. The regulator previously found that Microsoft had significant financial motive to foreclose on Sony, but refused to consider cutting Activision Blizzard’s console titles out of the equation. While the acquisition of King is a major step into mobile markets, it should be noted that the company has a narrow scope in comparison to other mobile developers, with a strong focus on the worldwide smash hit Candy Crush.
Spencer also noted that Xbox doesn’t consider itself having a plan B in the case the deal falls through, choosing to focus instead on convincing regulators that the deal would be positive for the gaming industry.
"Any kind of other plan for us would continue to be about: how do we find relevance in the mobile space? And I think there are other paths to make that happen. But when we looked at the universe of creators - I know most people think about Activision probably in the console, PC [space], but if you look from their finances, the business is actually almost the exact opposite.
"So any other plan would still be about [that]. We think that for Xbox to continue to thrive, we need to have some relevant place in the whole province."
The deal’s completion is looking more and more likely with every passing day. Microsoft and Activision Blizzard have passed many significant hurdles and successfully convinced regulators and competitors that its focus is primarily on mobile, and Microsoft recently sold its cloud gaming rights to Ubisoft to appease the CMA, who honed in on the sector as a point of contention.
"I remain confident in the deal," Spencer said. "We're obviously working constructively with regulators. It's my first time doing a deal of the size in the regulatory process. Maybe that's obvious now from the outside! But we remain confident in the process."
We listed Activision Blizzard as one of the top 50 mobile game makers of 2023.