Microsoft Activision Saga Must Come to an End


Activision Blizzard’s Director of Communications, Lulu Cheng Meservey, decided last week that it was time to take off the gloves during the war of words with Sony over Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of her employer (as if the gloves had never been put on). place). On Twitter, she directly quoted PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan as saying: “I don’t want a new Call of Duty deal. I just want to block your Merger.”Meservey said that Ryan uttered these words in February. 21, the date of a meeting between the parties interested in the agreement and the EU antitrust supervisory authority.

It was both surprising and not surprising at all. It was surprising that Meservey was willing to quote Ryan in this way — not the norm between the business leaders involved in the negotiations. And it was surprising that Ryan, if indeed quoted correctly, would be willing to formulate his company’s Position in such a naked way.

Meservey is hardly a reliable witness. As a senior Activision executive, she presumably has a large personal financial interest in the deal. She is also a Post-Trump communicator, not afraid to look like a villain and make Tweets in the name of “honesty” like deadly weapons.”As such, she is a useful fighting dog for Microsoft, able to preserve the atmosphere of gentlemanly generosity that he tried to project during his arguments with Sony and the regulators, and to leave it to him to visit places that he would never dare himself.

But-And here’s the non-surprising part – the words that Meservey put in Ryan’s mouth are nothing more than an accurate description of Sony’s attitude. A deal to protect Call of Duty’s place on PlayStation is on Microsoft’s table and is apparently enough for Nintendo and Nvidia. Sony has not at any time expressed interest in negotiating new concessions. He just wants to use his leverage with the regulators to stop a deal that will significantly strengthen his competitor, exclusive or non-exclusive. He will fight with teeth and claws to stretch his rival’s legs and cost him money as any company in his place could do. It would be naive to think that Microsoft would not do the same thing.

All in all, all this is fair enough, according to the rules of the game: This is capitalism! The problem is that the regulators — the European Commission, the British competition and markets authority and the US Federal Trade Commission -have allowed their own political interest to drag you, Sony, Microsoft and Activision Blizzard, into an unseemly spectacle that only damages the reputation of everyone involved, wasting a lot of time

The political climate in the United States, the United Kingdom and the EU is generally oriented towards the need to contain the enormous power of the tech giants Google, Amazon, Apple, Meta and Microsoft. Facebook facebook instagram instagram Instagram Facebook is difficult to contradict; there is an understandable contrition that agreements such as Metas (then Facebook) were allowed to go through the acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp. So Microsoft has a goal on its back, and the huge billion price tag for Activision Blizzard has inevitably attracted the attention of regulators.

But the matter when this agreement will significantly reduce competition in the game is small and is based on a very narrow idea of the global gaming industry. As powerful as Call of Duty, Warcraft and Candy Crush are, there is no world where the acquisition of Microsoft becomes a monopolistic Browbeat in an industry where Titans like Epic Games, Tencent and Sony themselves can reach the top of the revenue charts with completely different strategies in different arenas. (Well, if Microsoft had moved to buy the Epic makers of the dominant game engine, Unreal, as well as one of the most popular games, Fortnite — this might have been a deal worth looking into.) However, the regulators did not understand this and were therefore unduly influenced by Sony’s arguments about the influence of Call of Duty on the console market, which, at best, diverts attention from more legitimate concerns, such as Microsoft’s early lead on Subscriptions and cloud games.

Sony’s matter is based on its own conception of the game as a product store, where jealous control of intellectual property is the default mode of operation. But Microsoft has proven for almost a decade that it thinks differently about games and gaming platforms. Just look at the way Minecraft was treated; there was no regulatory body that could force Microsoft to enter into lawful agreements to keep the game available on PlayStation and Nintendo. And yet, nine years after, it remains there, because it is in Microsoft’s interest to leave it there. The same goes for Call of Duty, as Valve CEO Gabe Newell pointed out when he confidently rejected Microsoft’s offer to make a 10-year deal to keep it on Steam as unnecessary. At this level, the value of a game lies in the size of the audience it captures, rather than in its usefulness as a marketing bait for a console that is not even so central to Microsoft’s business plan. Indeed, under the leadership of the Head of Gaming Phil Spencer, Microsoft has been fighting for years for a future of platform-independent gaming, and it is the one that has led a reluctant Sony to initiatives such as cross-platform gaming at Fortnite and other games.

But Sony has a one-way mind. Perhaps this has led to what will hopefully be the low point of this sad campaign. In filings with the British regulator published last week, Sony argued that if Microsoft decided to publish Call of Duty on PlayStation, it could deliberately cripple the PlayStation version with intentional bugs or performance problems. Not only does this follish claim irresponsibly fuel the conspiracy theories of the console warriors, but it is disrespectful to the developers of Call of Duty, to the entire industry – and, frankly, to the regulators themselves, if Sony thinks they are gullible enough to believe the industry and the community of games work in this way

Maybe they are; or maybe Sony is really paranoid. But this assertion – that its competitor could disable its own product out of spite-does nothing if it does not reveal the weakness of Sony’s own Argument and the level of rhetoric used by the Schoolyard. Not to excuse Microsoft for its complicity with the latter: its stunt in Brussels after February. The 21st meeting, during which Brad Smith waved Sony a copy of the offer that he would have taken with him everywhere, is just the pompous version of the Hall monitor. This circus is not doing anyone in the video game industry any favors, and it’s probably useless either. The regulators should know that their antitrust lawsuit is not solid in this matter, and after receiving “behavioral measures” (a strange term that makes lawfully binding commercial contracts look like the naughty decision) from Microsoft, they will probably give up. It has already been hinted that the EU will be the first domino to fall.

Strange as it may seem for the 11-figure corporate acquisition, the truth is that Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard would probably be a net positive gain for the gaming community. Activision Blizzard is a terribly run company where the carelessness of Bobby Kotick’s management team has reduced its creative staff to dust. Blizzard, in particular, seems close to the point of total collapse. Following the appalling revelations of the Californian lawsuit about its “Frat Boy” culture, the Studio was in a period of fragile reconstruction as the news of an outrageously Bad meeting broke, during which President Mike Ybarra adopted an insensitive line with a struggling staff that was certainly taken from above. You can see the fault lines in recent versions of Blizzard: Overwatch 2 misunderstood and superficial and the predatory monetization of Diablo Immortal.

Microsoft barely has an impeccable record when it comes to taking over game studios; for example, look at the botched management of Lionhead that ended with its closure. But the labor neutrality agreement she signed with the Communications Workers of America union last year would be a real change for all Activision Blizzard employees, which could easily trigger a positive Halo effect throughout the industry. In other words, wouldn’t you prefer Phil Spencer over Bobby Kotick over your boss?

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