Microsoft’s $69 billion takeover of Activision Blizzard is not just about strengthening its position in the gaming sector – it’s also an attack on Apple and Google. The company is reportedly preparing to launch a new app store for games on iPhones and Android smartphones next year, once the acquisition has been approved by regulatory authorities. Microsoft’s Gaming Chief Executive Phil Spencer stated that the company wants to offer its game content in an Xbox Mobile Store on all screens, including smartphones.
This move comes after new EU rules oblige Apple and Google to open their mobile platforms in the EU to external app stores, set to be enforced from March 2024 as part of the EU Digital Markets Act. Spencer described these regulations as a great opportunity for Microsoft.
However, before Microsoft can move forward with its plans, its antitrust dispute with Sony must be resolved. Regulators in the US, Europe, and the UK have raised concerns about the potential competitive impact of Microsoft’s acquisition of Call of Duty maker Activision Blizzard. Sony, which is the most vocal opponent of the takeover, wants to avoid the deal at all costs. A decision on the matter is expected to be announced in April.
To appease competition authorities, Microsoft has promised competitors access to games. The now-announced plans for its own app store for mobile games could also be a further argument for the approval of the Activision Blizzard takeover as it would compete with the app store duopoly of Apple and Google.
The adjustments needed to Xbox and Game Pass apps to sell games and subscriptions on mobile devices are “pretty trivial”, according to Spencer. Activision Blizzard would fix Microsoft’s current lack of mobile games, with popular titles such as Call of Duty Mobile, Diablo Immortal, and Candy Crush Saga being “vital” in attracting gamers away from the Apple and Google marketplaces to an Xbox Mobile Store.