Microsoft continues to make moves to get its purchase of Activision Blizzard past the various regulatory bodies that have voiced their concerns. While there are plenty of signs that the EU regulators are getting ready to approve the deal, there is still the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the States to get past. Microsoft’s strategy for getting over those hurdles has been very clear: ink as many decade-long deals to put the Call of Duty franchise on as many platforms as possible to show regulators that they aren’t planning on bringing games to exclusivity. Microsoft already has a deal in place for this with Nintendo and a proposed deal for it with Sony, which has been the main private objector to this purchase to begin with.
And now Microsoft is piling them on, inking two additional CoD deals with two game-streaming platforms.
Microsoft announced Tuesday that it has signed a 10-year deal to bring its Xbox PC games to little-known Ukraine-based streaming platform Boosteroid. The move is being positioned in part to “mak[e] even more clear to regulators that our acquisition of Activision Blizzard will make Call of Duty available on far more devices than before,” as Microsoft Vice Chair and President Brad Smith said in a statement.
As I said, the reason for these deals is plainly obvious. Microsoft isn’t even bothering to pretend otherwise, having told the Wall Street Journal directly that these new deals are going to make it hard for Sony to make arguments in court or in front of regulators that center on exclusivity of the CoD franchise.
Just as notable, if not more so, is what is going on at the FTC. Over there, the FTC, having heard Sony’s arguments that Microsoft’s exclusivity pursuits on Bethesda titles should result in assuming it will do likewise with Activision Blizzard titles, is apparently considering opening the door to Microsoft getting Sony’s exclusivity deals, in detail, as part of the discovery process.
Microsoft argues that the Complaint in this case makes a number of allegations regarding high-performance video game console developers’ exclusivity arrangements with video game publishers. Microsoft states that it is aware that SIE requires many third-party publishers to agree to exclusivity provisions, including preventing the publishers from putting their games on Xbox’s multi-game subscription service, and that understanding the full extent of SIE’s exclusivity arrangements and their effect on industry competitiveness will assist in its defense.
Judge Chappell says this is because “the nature and extent of [Sony’s] content-licensing agreements are relevant to the Complaint’s allegations of exclusivity arrangements between video game console developers and video game developers and publishers.”
What does this mean? Well, it means that from 2019 on, Microsoft is going to get a look at the costs, terms, and conditions for all kinds of Sony exclusivity deals for the past several years. And you can bet Sony doesn’t want that released, especially if it has engaged in the exact kind of anti-competitive nonsense that it is warning Microsoft might engage in.
As to whether that information will make its way into the public, one can only hope.