Microsoft wants to bring a taste of Xbox game shopping to your phone. As The edge , a company filed with the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has revealed plans to build a “next-gen” Xbox store that will be available on mobile devices, not just consoles and PCs. Unsurprisingly, the store would rely heavily on content from Activision Blizzard’s proposed merger. Call of Duty Cell Phone and King’s Casual (think Candy Crush) account for more than half of Activision’s revenue and would help attract gamers to the new platform, Microsoft said.
The purchase would boost Microsoft’s mobile gaming and ad revenue, according to the company. It would also provide “much needed expertise” in the development and marketing of these titles.
The software giant knows there will be challenges. It will take a “major shift” in consumer habits to pull them out of the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, the filing says. Microsoft says it will apply its open app store philosophy to the Xbox Mobile Shop, including equal treatment of third-party apps and choices for in-app payments.
It’s far from certain that Microsoft will launch the Xbox Mobile Game Store as outlined. The CMA is conducting an in-depth investigation into the Activision Blizzard buyout amid concerns it could hurt competition, particularly in console games. There’s also no practical way to install a dedicated Xbox Game Store on iPhones and iPads. While Android users can sideload third-party stores, Apple requires use of the App Store. Microsoft struggled to get Xbox games onto the App Store and had to offer Game Pass streaming through the browser. Barring antitrust lawsuits forcing Apple to open up its platform, Microsoft may have to settle for wooing Android gamers.
The strategy behind the submission is not subtle. Microsoft is looking to convince UK regulators that the Activision-Blizzard deal would maintain or even improve competition, and the prospect of an Xbox Mobile Store is theoretically helping. However, agencies like the CMA may not see it that way. Officials are still concerned that Microsoft’s potential ownership of Call of Duty across console, cloud, and mobile would give the company too much control over the gaming industry, and the developer’s promises of support for competing platforms may not be enough reassurance.
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