Ever since it made its announcement last year with intention to do so, Microsoft has been making waves with its multi-billion dollar deal to purchase Activision Blizzard and all their respective franchises. Alas, it’s also left some gamers up in arms, as well as Sony, who’s been pushing for regulators across the globe to nix the deal.
Yesterday, a UK regulation team deemed that the merger would be a danger to the industry, possibly opening the door to higher prices. That said, however, analysts Nick McKay and Michael Pachter with Wedbush Securities believe the deal will go through, as they told
"We read today's release as a signal that the UK knows it has a losing legal argument. In our view, the FTC figured this out late last year, and rushed to file suit to block the merger in the hopes of being first to extract concessions from Microsoft. We believe that the CMA reached the same conclusion during its review, and accelerated its formal objection to the deal and proposed remedies in order to step in front of the FTC and gain bragging rights.”
So it looks like the deal could go through sometime this year. But does it really pose as much of a danger as Sony believes? Let’s take a closer look.
Where Could the Danger Lie?
The first thing to realize here is that Microsoft would add a huge asset to its growing list of studios, as well as more assets for its Xbox Game Pass service. That said, however, it doesn’t appear to be holding them back exclusively. At least, not yet.
It’s already noted that Call of Duty is a cash cow as a multiplatform release, and even secured deals with Nintendo and Valve to bring the series to both Switch and PC should the merger go through. Despite this, Sony still “hasn’t made any calls,” according to investors, to secure a deal. But, again, Microsoft is open to the idea. Does that mean it’ll have some exclusive content for itself? Sure, it’s a merger. That said, however, it is open to the idea of working with other platforms to share the love, just as it does with older Bethesda franchises. (Newer ones, however, do have exclusive games for Xbox, just saying.)
If anything, the deal would give a boost to Xbox Game Pass over PlayStation Plus Premium. However, again, it could easily offer some key titles to that service while, at the same time, keeping a Call of Duty game or two, along with Pro Skater, Crash, Spyro and whatever else, to keep the home fires burning. Win, win. And who knows, it could also give some games to Nintendo Switch Online as well, provided there are some classics that fit. (Rock ‘n Roll Racing and Blackthorne, anyone?)
Would Prices Really Go Up?
The bottom line that the UK regulators got to is that the completion of the Activision Blizzard/Microsoft merger would mean higher pricing for games. Well, um, we’re already at that point.
That’s the thing.
Sony, Microsoft and a few key third parties are already embracing the $70 model; and with The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, Nintendo will too. But game development costs money, and that’s just something we’ll have to accept. (Well, unless you pirate everything, which I don’t suggest mainly for multiplayer compatibility reasons. Also, devs do deserve some cash.)
But this is just another deal that would allow Microsoft to bolster its line-up for Xbox Series S/X and whatever cloud gaming solutions it’s working on for the future. That doesn’t mean gaming will suddenly go to $100 range and higher. This isn’t Virtua Racing on the Sega Genesis we’re talking about.
What Other Advantages Are There?
On the one hand, if the merger goes through, Microsoft wouldn’t just have Activision Blizzard in its back pocket, but also some killer events. BlizzCon is happening again this year; QuakeCon will likely return to an in-person event unless something occurs; and with a new Call of Duty in the cards, we could see an event that ties in with that.
Throw in Microsoft’s presentation right next to E3 (not at E3, mind you) and you have the means to reach a huge gaming community, which is a big plus for Microsoft right now. Where Sony seems to be yammering on about cash and gobbling up studios that aren’t producing too much at the moment, outreach to a grateful community – across a number of genres – is a pretty huge thing.
But this can motivate Sony in return. Even though it would still get key Activision franchises from the deal (as well as Diablo IV in June, don’t forget!), it could very well push its own studios into high gear to work on more original products for the PlayStation 5. We’re talking a potential return of KillZone on the level of KillZone 3, but with a next-gen push. (That’s not official, just spit-balling.) Not to mention original properties, such as Returnal and the Marvel stuff Insomniac is working on.
So Should It Go Through?
The naysayers will keep pushing, and Sony and the FTC seem deadest against it. But the deal will likely complete this summer and give Microsoft the ultimate asset in its battle over the next-gen gaming realm. And it needs it, given Nintendo’s huge selling muscle and Sony’s exclusives. But that said, it also seems ready to “share the wealth” with other companies instead of keeping everything absolutely exclusive, which is a huge plus – and could give them the means to push Xbox Game Pass to new platforms. Nintendo Switch anyone?
We’ll see what happens in the months ahead.
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