I've said it before, I don't really care all that much about Activision-Blizzard, but I'd still find it frustrating if it was blocked based on politics from the FTC and the CMA seemingly looking like they want to protect Sony's bottom line, especially when you weigh up the actual pros and cons of the deal too.
- Bobby Kotick and The Board will finally fuck off and leave, unlikely to happen if the deal fails unless someone else acquires them.
- Likely better workplace conditions for ABK employees, Microsoft isn't perfect but they're overall a lot better than Activision, which is why a lot of Activision-Blizzard employees expressed optimism on Twitter when the deal was announced.
- Anyone who is pro-union should see the benefits too, in that Microsoft has signed a legally binding contract with a union body which will apply to Activision-Blizzard who are currently union busting.
- Job security for the employees, Activision has a habit of doing almost yearly layoffs, if this deal doesn't go through, ABK's stock will likely plummet and ABK has also warned about flat-out layoffs if the deal falls through.
- Very likely that CoD will expand to Switch as Xbox has already expressed that interest, a strong chance of better Activision-Blizzard support on Switch across the board, a benefit to Nintendo Switch's currently 115m player base.
- Continued or better Activision-Blizzard support on Steam (over 100m users) and the new Steam Deck.
- Xbox & PC userbase would have a new cost benefit option with cheaper options thanks to Game Pass ($10 vs $70), that's a benefit to a possible over 100m users spread across Xbox/PC.
- Cloud users could benefit too but that userbase is tiny right now.
- Content parity for CoD on Xbox/PlayStation, no more timed exclusive content nonsense.
- Strong cross-play support, no more making Activision-Blizzard pay for it either (if Sony does that still?).
I don't see how you could say with a straight face that this gives Microsoft any sort of monopoly, that's easily disregarded as they won't dominate market share in any single sector. It would "hurt" Sony but that's business, companies try to hurt each other all the time but Sony has long been the market leader versus Xbox, it would hurt Sony, but it wouldn't hurt competition, it would help make it stronger.
Xbox would become closer to PlayStation in market share, as it stands right now, PlayStation could beat them with one hand tied behind their back, an Xbox closer to PlayStation however would encourage all parties to work harder which makes for a healthier industry which in turn is better for developers and gamers.
Can anyone really say to me that CoD on Game Pass and a few new Blizzard IPs going exclusive would cause such an increase in Xbox hardware sales that it would not only close gap but also cause Xbox to soar so far beyond Sony that they can't compete anymore? Closer isn't bad, draw isn't bad, even Xbox slightly leading isn't bad.
Sony and Microsoft being closer would benefit practically everyone, they'd be more investment into the business from all parties to keep their lead, they'd be less fuckery committed against consumers from an untouchable market leader and developers will be getting deals thrown to them left and right.
It's not even a certain guarantee that CoD becomes exclusive after 10 years, Minecraft has no such contract and remains multiplatform because it makes business sense, Game Pass's ability to push consoles in such a massive way like that is untested.
Game Pass has fewer subscribers than PS Plus, PlayStation is ahead in game sales, console sales, revenue, profits, etc. Microsoft would have to do a lot of work to exceed all of that even with Activision-Blizzard under them.
Microsoft would also do better in PC where they're currently 7th and increase competition there where Steam completely dominates PC even without needing CoD.
Other sub services have had moderate success without ABK (GeForce Now, PS Plus) so it's not impossible without them and other Cloud services have failed (Stadia) but Microsoft is being punished because they actually put the effort in unlike those failures, they're being punished for their earned success in Azure despite being behind Amazon in Cloud but are we going to blame Microsoft for Amazon's poor Luna efforts too?
Microsoft chooses to do day one releases which makes their subscription services a lot more desirable than others and accounts for its success, others could do that but choose not to.
Look at all the film studios entering streaming, Paramount has a market cap of $12bn which is smaller than EA, ABK, Sony, Bandai, Take Two, etc. But they manage to put out TV Shows which are more expensive than most AAA's still. Warner Bros Discovery is $27bn. Disney is $180bn admittedly but a lot of that is tied up in Disney resorts.
They're all taking that risk, if they can all enter into the streaming market in an industry which is more expensive than gaming with usually lower profit margins, then I don't believe for a second it's impossible for the likes of EA, Sony, Take-Two, etc. to do a streaming service with day one releases, especially when games on streaming service can also be monetised massively more than films/shows.
They simply choose not to, because they don't want to, and that is fine, but is that Microsoft's fault? No.
There is a strong chance that CoD remains multiplatform based on Microsoft's comparisons to Minecraft but at least 10 years at minimum is already guaranteed through legally binding contracts, so PlayStation users will still have access for 10 years at minimum. You can say "what about after 10 years?" if you don't believe Microsoft will continue to support after those 10 years, hence why it's mixed.
But here's the thing, a lot can happen in 10 years, CoD wasn't always #1 and did actually have strong competition, it moving to a 2-year release schedule will help rivals too, depending on other factors, it can gain strong competition again (it already does in the BR market). Sony could actually come up with a plan and execute it in 10 years using Bungie or other external developers, Battlefield could grow stronger, etc.
I still think Microsoft will continue to support it after those 10 years, CoD going exclusive only helps its rivals.
Diablo IV/OW2 are already announced, they're multiplatform. OW2 was just an update onto OW so I believe it's safe to assume OW2 will last a very long time and OW3 could even be another update overlayed onto OW2. I don't see OW going exclusive anytime soon and as for Diablo, there was 11 years between DIII and DIV.
That 10-year gap at minimum for both CoD and Diablo will give PS users plenty of time to save up for alternative hardware such as PC or Xbox Series when it becomes far cheaper, owning multiple consoles is not a bad thing, it's healthy for the industry.
And here's the crutch, exclusives have been the driving factor of people's choice of console since the very start of this industry, that is literally how this industry has worked and will probably always work, if CoD/Diablo do eventually go exclusive, is that a bad thing? Well as long as it doesn't cripple PlayStation, which is extremely unlikely, I don't see how a regulator can say it's a bad thing unless they say all exclusives are not allowed.
Seems like the major concerns from the CMA right now are being concerned about Sony's bottom line, Phase 1 sounding like it was written from Sony themselves. FTC are concerned about any big company attempting acquisitions, hence why they're on a losing streak.
Regulators are concerned that Microsoft will dominate Streaming Market/Cloud Market. I do take issue with this a little, it feels almost like punishing Microsoft for being proactive and bringing new ideas into the gaming market, they're punishing Microsoft for their success here and in other sectors such as Azure.
All while xCloud right now is an unproven market that may never even take off, as it stands right now it is so utterly insignificant, I don't see why you would block a deal with so many pros over one con that accounts for probably less than 1% of gaming revenue. Game Pass is a small market too and an additive to the overall gaming market, it's a choice and Game Pass is still being beaten by PS Plus who don't have any ABK titles.
These theories of concern from regulators to block the deal seem to rely massively on extreme speculation of a possible future, crystal ball predictions for a future that may never come to pass (xCloud taking off in a big way) and ignoring that there's plenty of big IP opportunities for other streaming services too, Sony could do day one releases and PS Plus would explode but they don't.