Microsoft told regulators in New Zealand that Activision Blizzard doesn’t make “must-have” games, derogatory language likely aimed at raising concerns about the Call of Duty owner’s proposed $68.7 billion acquisition clear out the software giant.
In a response to the country’s trade commission seven weeks ago, Microsoft also said Activision Blizzard’s games were “nothing unique,” according to Rock Paper Shotgun.
A Microsoft spokesman called the language a “legal artifice” and not an endorsement of Activision Blizzard’s games, which include hit titles like Overwatch, World of Warcraft, Starcraft and Candy Crush. “We love each of their games and have tremendous admiration and respect for the creative talent behind them,” the rep said in an email.
Microsoft’s choice of words underscores its challenges in convincing regulators around the world to let the software company, which also makes the Xbox console, swallow up the hit video game maker. Competitor Sony, which makes the PlayStation console, has raised concerns about its proposed deal with Brazilian regulators, saying consumers will choose a console based on its ability to play popular Call of Duty games.
Xbox boss Phil Spencer stated Twitter Earlier this year that it would “respect all existing agreements” to “retain Call of Duty on PlayStation”.
Even if Microsoft doesn’t make Call of Duty exclusive to its platform, it’s possible that the company will give Xbox owners certain features and privileges that aren’t available on PS5. Game Pass, Microsoft’s Netflix-style subscription service, could lure gamers to Xbox by adding the popular shooter to its $10-a-month subscription. That might be more attractive than paying $70 for a copy that runs on the PlayStation 5.
Microsoft will continue to release some cross-platform Activision Blizzard titles for competing platforms like PlayStation 5 and Nintendo Switch, Spencer told Bloomberg earlier this year.
Daniel Francis, a law professor at NYU and a former Federal Trade Commission official, said Microsoft is likely trying to reassure regulators that other platforms can compete even if they lose access to Activision’s games.
“Microsoft will likely argue that a competing game console or platform doesn’t need access to or compatibility with Activision games to remain competitive,” Francis said.