Microsoft is desperate to get in on the mobile gaming market, so much so that a big part of its plans to buyout a huge chunk of the game publishing world apparently hinge on creating their own mobile gaming app store.
As first noted by The Verge, filings produced by Microsoft to the UK for the company’s ongoing Activision Blizzard purchase shared Microsoft’s future plans for setting up a mobile gaming shop that would include games from the game publisher’s large library.
The filing was prepared for the U.K. Competition and Markets Authority. The country’s competition regular announced earlier this year it was probing the company over its plans for its $68.7 billion buyout of the world’s fifth largest video game publisher in the industry.
Because the U.K. is investigating whether the third largest tech company is trying to create a monopoly, Microsoft’s language involves words like “expand choice” and “bringing more games to mobile platforms.” Further down in the filing, the company said the buyout would improve Microsoft’s ability to create a next generation game store which operates across a range of devices, including mobile. This would supposedly add Activision Blizzard content, such as high-selling games like Call of Duty: Mobile or the much more maligned Diablo: Immortal.
Buying out Activision Blizzard would also include King, the developer of longtime mobile megahit Candy Crush Saga. The filing noted Candy Crush was one of three main series that account for over three quarters of Activision Blizzard’s net revenues, other than Call of Duty and World of Warcraft. Putting such titles up on its mobile store would likely give the company a major boost to its nascent service.
The Activision Blizzard merger, “provides Microsoft with capabilities and content on mobile, which it currently lacks, while creating new distribution options for game developers outside of mobile app stores.” The company also said that the new merger would add more content to its Xbox Game Pass subscription service. Adding Blizzard titles to the streaming services would increase subscribers by several million, the company stated.
Microsoft declined to comment further about any plans for a mobile gaming platform beyond what they mentioned in the filings. As noted by Verge, a marketing graph on Microsoft’s merger page shows they believe mobile gaming represents a much bigger slice of the pie compared to both PC and Consoles.
The company admitted that making a place for itself among Google and Apple would require “a shift in consumer behavior.” Earlier this year, Microsoft’s Vice Chair and President Brad Smith dropped their so-called “Open App Store Principles,” mentioning they would restrict themselves from using app store data to compete against other developers’ apps. Apple also restricts any other company from creating an app shop on iOS, which would certainly exclude it from those devices altogether.
And of course, adding a new mobile gaming suite would “increase the attractiveness of Microsoft’s advertising business,” the company stated in the filing. Though making inroads in the wider app marketplace would require the company to get other publishers on its side. Microsoft might have a friend in Epic Games, which recently had a spat with Apple. Epic CEO Tim Sweeney argued Apple should facilitate rival app stores or third party payment methods. Xbox Cloud Gaming already allows users to play Fortnite on practically any mobile device.
This move could set up one of the biggest new competitors for Google and Apple. Apple App Store and Google Play Store remain the two titans in the app game, maintaining an utter stranglehold on iOS and Android devices, respectively. Of course, such an endeavor could also fail spectacularly. We only have to look at the recent loss of Google Stadia for an example of ill-timed and ill-thought gaming endeavors from major tech companies.
It also seems like Microsoft is trying to make consoles a smaller part of its gaming business. There’s ongoing speculation about the “Keystone” streaming box that will supposedly allow players to play games without having to buy a machine for several hundred dollars. Game Pass is already available on some Samsung TVs as well.
Microsoft is on a crusade to prove to various nations’ regulators that buying up a huge chunk of the video game industry in one fell swoop was a good thing for the world. The company’s also talked up its efforts to form a “neutrality agreement” with unions and nix NDAs and non-compete clauses.