According to Xbox boss Phil Spencer, Microsoft's proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard is a move that aims to serve gamers by keeping their needs front and center.
Microsoft's proposed merger with triple-A game studio Activision Blizzard has seen the company battle concerns that the merger will do more harm than good to the gaming industry, but, in an interview on the Second Request podcast (it was opens in a new tab), Spencer explained that despite scrutiny from regulators, he believes Microsoft's proposed acquisition of publisher Call of Duty will ultimately benefit gamers if allowed to come from the front lines.
“Since I've been in this role, thinking about how we're going to develop Xbox and our role in the game, we've tried to put the player at the center of all of our decisions,” Spencer said. "It seems to me that the regulator is looking for what is best for consumers, but this agreement is in the best interest of the players.
Among the fears from US and European regulators are complaints that Microsoft is actively obstructing rivals' business by preventing users of Sony or Nintendo consoles from accessing flagship Activision titles by making them Xbox exclusives.
Paved with good intentions(Image credit: Microsoft)
One of the biggest questions surrounding the proposed merger with Activision Blizzard arose after Bethesda's parent company ZeniMax was acquired in 2021: whether Microsoft will eventually bring major titles to other consoles. In the interview with Second Request, Spencer used the ZeniMax merger as an example of how Microsoft doesn't intend to do that with Activision Blizzard titles.
"All of the ZeniMax games that we said would ship to PS5, we did," he said, referring to how Microsoft continued to support cross-platform updates for Elder Scrolls Online and Fallout 76. "There's not a single ZeniMax game that we've pushed from PlayStation.
Spencer also commented on how Microsoft honored the agreements ZeniMax made with its competitors prior to the purchase, suggesting that Microsoft can be trusted to keep its word. “The first two games we shipped from ZeniMax were actually PS5 exclusives, and those are just contractual. Sony signed an agreement to exclude these games from Xbox and we complied.”
With that being said, we do know that upcoming games made by Bethesda, like Starfield, will be Xbox exclusive titles. This means that they will only be distributed on Xbox and PC platforms. Spencer reiterated that first-party games are nothing new, stating that "exclusives are part of the story of how people sell consoles."
His comments were more meant to allay fears that Microsoft would restrict Activision's core titles to Xbox consoles only, if the merger goes through. “How do we want to grow and nurture these franchises, getting a game like Call of Duty off the biggest console platform is completely at odds with all of that.
In the interview, Spencer highlighted Xbox's commitment to providing a consistent, fun, and varied experience for its cross-platform gamers. “It allows them to play great games on the devices they want to play on,” he said, going on to comment on the major differences between Xbox and PlayStation highlighted by their day-one deliveries directly to PC and Xbox gamers via Game Pass. .
Spencer also hinted at her desire to break into the mobile gaming scene. This is therefore one of the main reasons why Microsoft might want to buy Activision: it would allow Xbox to further dive into the mobile gaming space. “The place where we're completely irrelevant is on the bigger platform, mobile,” Spencer said, suggesting that if the Microsoft/Activision merger did happen, it would be something Microsoft would look to.
they have served you(Image credit: ACTIVISION)
Despite Spencer's efforts to push the merger as a good thing, since the podcast aired, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has filed a lawsuit to block Microsoft's acquisition of Activision Blizzard.
The redacted complaint (opens in a new tab) outlines the FTC's concerns that Microsoft would use the merger as a way to negatively impact markets and its competitors. While Spencer's comments about Xbox exclusives are "nothing new," the FTC's complaint underscores the regulator's concern that Microsoft breached assurances made to the European Commission (EC) during its antitrust hearing. During the hearing, the company claimed that it would not retain ZeniMax games from rival consoles, however Starfield and Redfall are expected to be exclusive to the Xbox console.
Although this lawsuit could threaten the proposed merger and end up blocking it, Microsoft will have to defend its case before a judge.