Phil Spencer met with the Competition and Markets Authority in the UK this week to explain that the Activision Blizzard deal was not anticompetitive.
The proposed $69 billion Activision Blizzard acquisition almost seems like it should have been dealt with months ago. Following CEO Bobby Kotick’s update, the Xbox head himself, Phil Spencer, took a trip this week to speak with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). He defended the deal by discussing how competition was not threatened by the deal. He reassured the European Commission that the acquisition had no impact on Xbox’s side of things in the future.
The Times specifically asked Spencer what would happen to Xbox should such an important acquisition be blocked by regulators, and he explained that Microsoft and Xbox would still continue doing what it has been good at, whether the deal goes through. “This is an important acquisition for us. It’s not some linchpin to the long term—Xbox will exist if this deal doesn’t go through,” he said.
Sony was one of the biggest supporters showing how the Activision Blizzard acquisition would be anticompetitive to the gaming industry, explaining how Xbox could make a massive game series, Call of Duty, a platform-exclusive series. It was a strange point from Sony as Microsoft recently said it offered Sony a ten-year, legally enforceable contract to have the new Call of Duty games available on PlayStation the same day it comes to Xbox.
Spencer expanded on his views of the concerns to the Activision Blizzard deal, “Competition is us trying to get stronger,” Spencer told The Times. “I don’t have great rationale for…how better competition in consoles is somehow hurtful for consumers. Because to me, having us, Sony, and Nintendo doing well in the console market—all of us with strengths and uniqueness and content and capabilities—gives consumers more choice. I’d hate to see consoles go to where phones are where there are only two manufacturers. And, right now, we have three good competitors.”
Additionally, Minecraft Dungeons, which was an Xbox-exclusive title, was recently announced to be on PlayStation Plus for March 2023—along with other big titles like Battlefield 2042 and Code Vein. So far, it seems like Xbox has been very flexible with trying to be as transparent and careful with how the Activision Blizzard deal could be perceived.
Spencer expressed his sympathy to regulators as well. With the investigations on the Activision Blizzard deal happening in the UK and US with the FTC, he noted how competition in the gaming industry could be complex, and many of the members on the regulatory boards may not be that experienced with understanding the industry.
Most of the time in my career at Xbox, as I’ve met with government regulators, there’s been a real lack of knowledge about the games industry,” he said. “I’ve appreciated spending time with them and, in certain cases helping to educate. I think for a lot of the regulators, this is the first time they’ve looked at this industry.”