Microsoft buys Activision Blizzard

Sure, but if AB has no such service how is the acquisition reducing competition in that space?

While you can pay your $70 for Acti-Blizz titles on Playstation until the end of time (or for the next 10 years), slim chance they’ll ever be on PS Plus as a free or streaming title from a MS-owned Acti-Blizz.

Wait… So the argument is going to be that Microsoft needs to be punished in some unrelated aspect of the industry, because Sony hasn’t improved their subscription services?

I mean… Sony had a huge library of games. They totally COULD make their services better.

The only thing that will force then to do so, is for Microsoft to start nipping at their heels.

Plus, Gamepass is one of the main ways Microsoft is trying to compete in the console market, which Sony dominates.

Yeah, Gamepass is like a Hail Mary pass for Microsoft. Without it, they looked to be out of the running after the fumble of the Xbox One generation. With it, they might be able to catch up one day.

In the end, I just want all 3 companies to stay in the gaming space and stay competitive and not lose out to mobile gaming and apple and google. I think the best chance of that happening is for game pass to succeed for Microsoft. It would let them stay in the game. Now, whether they need to buy AB for that? I don’t know. They clearly think so, but I’d like to think even if this gets blocked, Game Pass is still a very valuable proposition for the consumer, so I don’t think it will hurt them that much.

I mean, I literally bought an Xbox series X because of Gamepass (and backwards compatibility), and I skipped the xbone.

It didn’t help Sony that it was impossible (and still is) to buy a PS5. I eventually got a PS5, but nearly 2 years after I got the XSX

I give 0 shits about the “competitive” vs “anti-competitive” angle. It is a completely useless argument in this case. Anything that Microsoft wants to do will be considered anti-competitive by their competitor and vice versa.

The important thing in this case is that the FTC needs to make a compelling argument to me, the consumer, that this will be harmful to me.

Some of the current arguments I have seen so far, and it is pre-liminary, are that Microsoft is buying IP to drive people to their platform. That is not enough to make this anti-consumer. Companies do this all the time. Is Nintendo anti-consumer because I can’t play Pokemon on PC? This is how platform holders compete in this space, get exclusive content. This is a competitive move.

If the FTC makes an argument that this will lessen competition in the games-streaming space, or monthly games subscription space, that is a more legitimate concern as a consumer. Game-pass is great right now, but if microsoft gets a monopoly in that space and ratchets up the prices and lowers the quality, that would suck. I want them to push Microsoft on that much more.

But, they shouldn’t be punished because Sony has done an awful job with their subscription service and streaming options. That in itself would be anti-competitive, and anti-consumer. It would hurt consumers in that a legitimately inferior service was being helped to stay afloat by a lawsuit.

Either way, I hope we will see a lot more from the FTC on their concerns, and that will push Microsoft to make more commitments to being consumer friendly.

I feel like the gubmint’s resources would be better spent doing something about the endless consolidation in various health care device and service markets rather than ensuring wide availability of Call of Duty.

I have systems I’ve been supporting for 10 years or less that have gone through as many as four buyouts/mergers in that time, by companies with existing products doing essentially the same thing. I’ve yet to see wonderful new features or products come from any of it.

/End Rant

I don’t know, I think console wars are more important than say… affordable access to insulin.

Or at least more/as harmful than all the other shit they’ve allowed.

I found it pretty bemusing that just about every game tonight at the Game Awards was either running on a PS5, had some cross-promotional deal with Sony, or were outright a console exclusive for at least a year or longer.

I think the argument that Call of Duty is a life or death product for the PlayStation brand is one of the weakest, honestly, and it belittles all of Sony’s own accomplishments within gaming.

One of the best performing publishers critically, commercially, and consciously. Sony first-party games at this point, are assumed quality on immediate announcement.

Hell, I’d argue Microsoft making Call of Duty exclusive would probably kill the brand within a few short years. It’s one of the cultural gaming touchstones at this point. It has to be universal or it loses almost all of the appeal.

I used to be pretty sour on Microsoft and their entire MO but they’ve made it so goddamn convenient to game with just about any device I own and carry that progress with me.

Not to mention the money I’ve saved trying games and realizing they weren’t for me whereas I used to have to pay per game for the privilege of being disappointed.

If anything, I’d love for this to go through and open the doors of having a native Cloud application on iOS in addition to maybe seeing the service available on my Switch and eventual PlayStation 5.

I think the era of closed ecosystems are coming to an end. Microsoft and even Sony themselves have demonstrated there’s a lot of money to be made on other platforms.

Also if they’re gonna let shit like T-Mobile buying Sprint and Disney getting Fox and all their IPs like the biggest movie franchise in the world, Avatar, they gotta let this one go.

The full complaint is up so maybe we can start arguing about the FTC’s actual arguments rather than what we think they might be.

Whether or not the FTC has a strong case, that’s not how antitrust law works.

In the report, their explanation is in paragraph 13:

Today, Activision […] seeks to offer its games wherever gamers want to be playing them. It has an incentive to offer its titles broadly. Microsoft’s ownership of Activision’s content would alter that dynamic. As Microsoft seeks to increase its profits from the lucrative video game industry, the Proposed Acquisition will increase Microsoft’s incentive to withhold Activision content from, or degrade Activision content on, consoles and subscription services that compete with Xbox consoles and Xbox Game Pass. Such conduct would be reasonably likely to substantially lessen competition and harm gamers in the United States.

(or, what @LockerK said!)

There’s some more reasoning in a section feistily headed Microsoft’s Statements and Past Actions Indicate that It Will Likely Act on Its Incentives to Disadvantage Rivals by Withholding or Degrading Activision Content (para 113 onwards), which suggests some scepticism about Microsoft’s promises to e.g. keep CoD multiplatform:

Moreover, Microsoft’s past conduct is telling. Despite statements by Microsoft to European regulators disavowing the incentive to make ZeniMax content exclusive post-close, after the EC cleared the transaction, Microsoft plans for three of the newly acquired titles to become exclusive to Microsoft’s Xbox consoles and Xbox Game Pass subscription services.

Microsoft’s previous representations to the EC about its incentives after its purchase of ZeniMax were not borne out by Microsoft’s own post-merger behavior. Instead, Microsoft put its true post-merger incentives on full display when it decided to deny rivals its newly acquired future releases and thwart consumers who would choose to play them on a competing product. Microsoft’s past behavior should also cast more suspicion on its non-binding public commitments to keep Call of Duty available on PlayStation consoles through the end of Activision’s existing agreement with Sony

Not saying I agree with this or not - big fan of GamePass here, I’m paid up till 2025! - just that I’d always thought it likely they’d separate out the Netflix-style subscription stuff as a distinct ‘relevant market’ to the more traditional console market we tend to think of, and its relative newness might invoke more concern over anti-competitive practices and its effects on innovation.

WTF is up with this redaction?

Sony must be lobbying hard and this is a kind of revenge against Microsoft for their 90s Internet browser monopoly.

So, here are the relevant markets as the FTC sees it:

This maps relatively closely to most of the the ones identified by the CMA, but interestingly doesn’t include games publishing or digital games storefronts (or computer operating systems, but I doubt the CMA is going to find harm there), nor does it break out PC and mobile. Generally, the CMA list is much more granular, which to my inexpert eye would suggest that it is on the one hand more likely to find harm in a given market, but equally an acceptable remedy might be much more narrow.

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This is a hard sell for me, and I think something Microsoft will push on, as it feels factually inaccurate. They will likely have numbers of players on PC vs console.

Especially as the FTC is pushing part of the complaint as Microsoft’s streaming service becoming a monopoly as part of this deal, yet focus a TON on how there are only 2 places that GAMERS™ play games.

Completely discarding the PC as a viable option for gamers is just plain false, and wrong, and I suspect that Microsoft will push very hard how much they have expanded the ability to connect to gamepass on many devices. This hurts the FTC’s argument that they are trying to push people away from a PS5 and onto an Xbox Series X.

The argument they are making almost feels like a joke written by a ResetEra poster. It is hilariously one-sided in its analysis. (I mean, it is supposed to be, but it reads like a forum post)

I would argue that the FTC is completely missing the point with the large bulk of this argument. Trying to argue that gamers are going to be forced onto 1 console in the future as a monopoly is just wrong. The future of gaming is moving away from high performance consoles and onto streaming, and Microsoft has shown how they basically only want to expand your possibilities in connecting to their subscription service. I would expect their rebuttal will show that Sony has refused to allow them to put their game-pass streaming on the PS5, as well as the difficulties they have had with cross-compatibilty with Sony’s consoles.

Sony was extremely “anti-competitive” during the PS4 era. Locking down the playstation services and gamers into a silo unable to connect to other consoles or PC. This was (and still kind of is) a shitty thing to do, and super anti-consumer. And done in a way to drive people to purchase ps4’s. I am sure Microsoft will bring up how consumer friendly they have been very recently.

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This statement will likely be argued by Microsoft and lawyered up. It is also a bit weaker since they are arguing that microsoft’s past behavior of private assurances are equal to its currently very public assurances that they are guaranteeing CoD on Sony consoles for the next 10 years. I am sure this was written before that was publicly stated.

To me, this is the strongest argument.

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Stating that most AAA games come from 4 independent publishers, and this purchase would change that number to 3. That is a big deal, huge.

Though, I would hope that if this is successfully blocked none of those companies they have just stated, EA, Activision, Take-Two, and Ubisoft cannot be purchased by any console manufacturer in the US.

And they erode that argument a bit further down…

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Oh … don’t forget about Epic and Fortnite… someone who we didn’t push as one of the only AAA developers. What about Riot? Tencent? Bandai-Namco (which has revenues higher than Take-two) Hell Valve?

They also do not mention Sony’s purchase of Bungie, as Destiny is certainly considered a AAA title. I am certain Microsoft will point this out.

There are a lot of holes to this argument, and I think that Microsoft will focus on those a lot.

Example: Every other ad during The Game Awards was how you could play Xbox games on Samsung TVs without a console.

I am surprised at how much of the FTC’s argument feels antiquated (I guess I shouldn’t be surprised the government is a bit behind)

They focus a lot of the argument on how there are 2 places consumers can play AAA titles, the Xbox Series X and Playstation 5.

This is just wrong, and will look hilarious 10 years from now.

Not saying that there not might be reasonable reasons to block this, but making it a PS5/XSX argument is not good.

That’s not what they are saying. They are saying they are different markets, not that they are not viable options. The FTC is saying that in the specific market of console hardware, and then also in the market for streaming games, the merger will diminish competition. The courts may well not agree and say the relevant market is too narrowly defined, but the argument isn’t that gamers can’t play on PC.

Bingo.

No, it’s much much less well thought through than that. It’s “Microsoft is big tech, therefore Microsoft buying something is bad”. Everything else is just rationalization of that decision.

Clearly they cannot be allowed an unfair advantage as they compete against minnows like checks notes Google(*), NVidia and Sony.

(*: I realize that Google utterly failed - but it gives an indication of who MS are competing against).

Right, but they are behind not because of a difference in game portfolios but because they haven’t got the business model and the tech working.

Indeed.

It feels like the FTC has carefully defined what constitutes a “market” in order to reach the desired conclusion.

PC games and console games and streaming games compete against each other. They are the same essential product offered in different ways.