The unexpected twist in Microsoft’s Activision acquisition as cloud gaming rights transition to Ubisoft

Aug 23, 2023, 8:23 AM UTC
5 mins read
The unexpected twist in Microsoft's Activision acquisition as cloud gaming rights transition to Ubisoft
(Image credit: Activision Blizzard

In an unexpected twist, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has emerged as the lone ranger holding up Microsoft’s whopping $68.7 billion deal to acquire Activision. What’s even more surprising is the basis for their rejection: concerns about the potential harm to competition in the fledgling cloud gaming sector, a relatively small slice of the gaming pie. But Microsoft isn’t one to back down easily; they’ve hatched a strategic plan to untangle this mess. Brace yourselves for a game-changing proposal that involves passing on cloud gaming rights for both existing and upcoming Activision Blizzard games to an unlikely contender: Ubisoft.

Brad Smith, Microsoft’s President, has taken the mic to lay down the new strategy. “To address the concerns about the impact of the proposed acquisition on cloud game streaming raised by the UK Competition and Markets Authority, we are restructuring the transaction to acquire a narrower set of rights,” Smith explains. “This includes executing an agreement effective at the closing of our merger that transfers the cloud streaming rights for all current and new Activision Blizzard PC and console games released over the next 15 years to Ubisoft Entertainment SA, a leading global game publisher. The rights will be in perpetuity.” This plan entails a post-merger agreement that hands over the cloud streaming rights for all current and future Activision Blizzard games on PCs and consoles, spanning the next 15 years, to Ubisoft Entertainment SA. And guess what? These rights are here to stay.

Now, let’s decode this complexity:

  1. Breaking the Chains of Exclusivity: The proposed move shatters the exclusivity of Activision Blizzard games on Xbox Cloud Gaming, a move aimed at quelling antitrust concerns that have cropped up.
  2. Ubisoft’s Unexpected Role: Strangely enough, Ubisoft, a name not traditionally linked with Microsoft, will wield control over the streaming rights for Activision Blizzard games outside the European Union (EU).
  3. The Return Journey: But wait, there’s a catch. Ubisoft won’t just be holding onto these rights; they’ll license the games back to Microsoft, which means you can still relish these titles on Xbox Cloud Gaming.

Surprisingly, this isn’t a ploy to rope you into subscribing to Ubisoft+. While subscribing does grant you access to these games via streaming, the real twist is in the broader implications – Microsoft and Ubisoft appear to be cooking up a collaborative competition that might just change the game.

This transformation hinges on a one-time financial transaction from Microsoft to Ubisoft. Amidst the intricate web of deals and negotiations, Microsoft seems to have concluded that this convoluted setup makes sense. Ubisoft, in turn, hands over the reins to Microsoft, allowing gamers to savor these titles on Xbox Cloud Gaming as originally planned.

But what about the competition? Xbox Cloud Gaming has pretty much been cruising solo in its realm so far. However, picture this: Sony jumping headfirst into streaming in the future. Could this pave the way for Xbox exclusives from Activision on PlayStation via streaming exclusivity alone? It’s a mind-boggling thought that introduces a new layer to this narrative, raising eyebrows about Ubisoft’s possible stance in such a scenario.

Yet, amidst all this strategizing, the million-dollar question remains: Will the CMA give this revamped proposal a thumbs up? Their initial rejection was a curveball, and predicting their sentiment now is anyone’s guess. On paper, the phrase “Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard games are no longer controlled by Microsoft when it comes to streaming, nor are they Xbox ecosystem exclusive” might sound like a nod to the conditions. But remember, interpreting regulatory nuances is hardly straightforward.

As the chapters of this intriguing saga unfold, the CMA’s decision stands poised to define the course of one of the gaming world’s biggest mergers. Microsoft’s strategic shift, from exclusivity to collaborative integration, could potentially mark a groundbreaking way of appeasing regulatory concerns while fostering a spirit of shared innovation in gaming. The future of gaming isn’t solely being shaped by technological leaps; the regulatory arena is now a stage where corporate strategies harmonize with the demands of competition and consumer well-being. As the gaming universe watches eagerly, the conclusion of this saga could reshape the landscape of industry collaboration and regulatory adaptability.

Related /

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

More in "Gaming"

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x