Opinion: The Microsoft Monopoly
The Microsoft Monopoly – Guest Writer: Kelly Stretch
With the news flying around about Microsoft acquiring the first, first-party publisher to exist in the world, Activision Blizzard, gamers and business people are abuzz with their opinions and after spending some time looking into the deal, and thinking it through, I decided to give you all some of the facts, as well as how I feel about the whole thing.
First of all, the deal is signed but not closed, so what this means is that the contracts have been drawn up and agreed on, the deal has gone through all the financial and internal legal checks, but will now await regulatory (read government/competition commission) approval.
The company estimates this process alone to take up to 18 months, so we are looking at the end of 2023 for clear outcomes. This does make Microsoft one of the top three players in the gaming world, only behind Sony and Tencent.
You Shall Not Pass
It is already clear that Game Pass will play a big role in the games that Microsoft will acquire through this, notably Call of Duty and Overwatch, both with huge competitive leagues. Not to mention that PlayStation held some exclusivity with Call of Duty for the past couple of years, so that is where I expect the biggest changes to come into play.
The next big thing is how will the companies operate? For the next 18 months or until the deal is closed, they will operate as they are now. In this time we will likely see a new Call of Duty, perhaps a WoW expansion, and maybe Overwatch 2.
This means the teams and C-level management (Bobby Kotick) will stay as they are until the deal is closed.
It has been reported that Bobby will leave the business when the deal closes. Which is nothing but good riddance. It sucks that he will leave with a lump sum of cash, but the workings of the world are hardly, if ever, fair.
Besides all that, what does this mean for the average gamer?
Don’t Hate The Player
Well, if you are platform agnostic and don’t mind where you play, be that on a PlayStation, Xbox, PC or Switch, nothing.
You will likely just play more games on PC or Xbox than you did before. If you’re a PlayStation player, I don’t think there will be full exclusivity on console launches, but there may be more perks or timed exclusives that you won’t have access to. Switch versions are always way after the rest, so nothing will change there.
If you’re an Xbox person, Game Pass will be ripe for the picking, and you will spend less money for more games from one of the biggest publishers in the world. I have said and will say again, Game Pass is changing the gaming landscape, not only with how affordable it is, but with the games it offers, and the exposure it leads to for little games like Unpacking, for example.
This acquisition does lead to it looking like Microsoft has a bit of a monopoly, and with all the Activision Blizzard titles being as big as they are, as well as the Zenimax acquisition last year, their own Microsoft studio offerings, and their currently incredible indie showcase, plus the yet unanswered-by-competitors Game Pass offering, they may have one for the time being.
It also helps that there are actually Series X and S consoles on shelves way more often than there are PS5s.
In the end I think it boils down to your needs as a gamer. Microsoft has immense funding, and they are pushing their gaming product to the extreme. With AI and VR leading the trends for what the future of gaming looks like, I think this move is well calculated on their part.
Microsoft has something for everyone, and it’s really great to sit down and browse games like I would browse Netflix. I don’t think this leads to a monopoly though, I think this leads to a healthier, more ethically inclined and equality based Activision Blizzard, who can then continue to make games that shape childhoods and lives, like they have done mine.
I strongly feel that without some kind of intervention, Activision Blizzard may not have existed in a few years, and that would be a true loss to the gaming world at large.
So yes, in my book, Microsoft can buy Activision Blizzard. They can sell more consoles and sell more Game Pass. They can boost indies into the spotlight.
I don’t think it hurts the industry, I think it will open the eyes of competitors to see what they aren’t doing – and to figure out what they can do to meet what their fans expect of them. I think the average gamer will make their choice, and be loud about it, as we tend to be, but in my opinion, this is a good thing for all of us, present and future.