Microsoft wants to build an Xbox-branded mobile game store
The Activision Blizzard merger would play a key role.
Microsoft wants to bring a taste of Xbox game shopping to your phone. As The Verge explains, a company filing with the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has revealed plans to build a "next generation" Xbox store that's available on mobile devices, not just consoles and PCs. The shop would unsurprisingly lean heavily on content from the proposed Activision Blizzard merger. Call of Duty Mobile and King's more casual games (think Candy Crush) represent more than half of Activision's revenue and would help attract gamers to the new platform, Microsoft said.
The purchase would boost Microsoft's mobile gaming and ad revenue, according to the company. It would also offer "much needed expertise" in developing and marketing these titles.
The software giant is aware there will be challenges. It will require a "major shift" in consumer habits to pull them away from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, according to the filing. Microsoft says it will apply its open app store philosophy to the Xbox mobile shop, including equal treatment for third-party apps and choices for in-app payments.
It's far from certain that Microsoft will launch the Xbox mobile game store as outlined. The CMA is conducting a deep investigation of the Activision Blizzard buyout over concerns it might hurt competition, particularly in console gaming. There's also no practical way to install a dedicated Xbox game store on iPhones and iPads. While Android users can sideload third-party stores, Apple requires use of the App Store. Microsoft struggled to bring Xbox games to the App Store, and had to offer Game Pass streaming through the browser. Short of antitrust lawsuits forcing Apple to open its platform, Microsoft may have to be content with courting Android gamers.
The strategy behind the filing isn't subtle. Microsoft wants to convince UK regulators that the Activision Blizzard deal would preserve or even improve competition, and the prospect of an Xbox mobile store theoretically helps. Agencies like the CMA might not see it this way, however. Officials are still concerned that Microsoft's potential ownership of Call of Duty on console, cloud and mobile would give the company too much control over the games industry, and the developer's promises to support rival platforms might not be sufficiently reassuring.