Microsoft wants to have its own mobile game store on iOS and Android, and the company is really counting on its potential acquisition of Activision Blizzard to spearhead that effort. The deal is currently being scrutinized by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority, and the publication of Microsoft’s response to the CMA’s Phase 2 review of the deal (via FOSS Patents) includes interesting tidbits about Microsoft’s mobile gaming ambitions.
In the 33 pages long documents, Microsoft does its best to demonstrate that the CMA’s decision to launch a Phase 2 review was misguided. The company also throws shade at Sony’s anticompetitive practices along the way, highlighting how “Sony has chosen to block Game Pass from PlayStation.”
Microsoft also emphasized that “Xbox currently has no material presence” on mobile, even though mobile now represents “the largest segment in gaming.” This is an area where Microsoft wants to improve its position, and the company wants to do so by creating a “next-generation” game store that would compete with the established app stores from Apple and Google.
The software giant believes that it can make a dent in the mobile gaming market by leveraging the popular gaming IPs from Activision Blizzard, which include Diablo Immortal, Call of Duty Mobile, and Candy Crush.
Fourth, the Transaction will improve Microsoft’s ability to create a next generation game store which operates across a range of devices, including mobile as a result of the addition of Activision Blizzard’s content.17 Building on Activision Blizzard’s existing communities of gamers, Xbox will seek to scale the Xbox Store to mobile, attracting gamers to a new Xbox Mobile Platform. Shifting consumers away from the Google Play Store and App Store on mobile devices will, however, require a major shift in consumer behaviour. Microsoft hopes that by offering well-known and popular content, gamers will be more inclined to try something new. The Open App Store Principles announced by Microsoft will apply to the next generation game store.
Microsoft did mention its mobile app store ambitions earlier this year when it detailed its Open App Store principles. “Our vision is to enable gamers to play any game on any device anywhere, including by streaming from the cloud. App stores on the most relevant and popular everyday devices like mobile phones; PCs, including Windows PCs; and, in time, the cloud, are important to realizing this vision,” wrote Brad Smith, Microsoft Vice Chair and President back in February 2022.
According to Microsoft’s Open App Store Principles, developers should be free to use their own payment systems to process in-app payments. After Epic Games and Apple had a very public fight about in-app purchases in Fortnite for the past two years, having more choices regarding payment systems is probably something that most game developers would like to have in the future.
Since Android is an open platform, it would certainly be possible for Microsoft to launch its own Xbox game store and compete with other third-party app stores. This is something that Samsung and Amazon have already done on Android, though Apple still doesn’t allow third-party app stores on iOS and iPadOS. Apple also prevented Microsoft to launch an Xbox Game Pass app on the App Store, forcing iPhone and iPad users to use a web browser to access Xbox Cloud Gaming.
If Microsoft did fail to create a third mobile ecosystem with Windows Phone, the company launching an Xbox store on iOS and Android with Activision Blizzard games could certainly shake things up. However, the ongoing in-depth investigation by the CMA suggests that getting the $68 billion deal approved by all regulators is still far from guaranteed.