It appears that Apple and Google have a new competitor in the mobile games market. All the signs are there that Microsoft is developing an Xbox mobile games store, which it will use to provide users with mobile games. The Xbox creator has stated that its acquisition of Activision Blizzard was largely motivated by its plans to build an Xbox mobile gaming platform and accompanying store and the first of the store have been found in publicly released documents appertaining to the CMA’s enquiry into the Activision Blizzard merger with Microsoft.
With the addition of a mobile game store, Xbox will be able to expand its reach to a broader audience of gamers. However, for its plans to succeed, Microsoft needs to entice consumers away from the Google Play and Apple App stores. And that’s where the company’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard both fits in and potentially gives the new gaming giant a giant-sized headache.
Activision Blizzard already has a strong mobile game presence with titles like Diablo Immortal and Call of Duty: Mobile and it would seem obvious that Xbox plans to use said mobile game franchises, among others, to draw users to their platform.
Not coming soon to an iPhone near you
It’s unlikely that Microsoft will be able to compete directly with the Apple App store as the company famously doesn’t allow for third-party app stores on its devices. However, it is possible that the Xbox Mobile Store will be available for Android devices without a similar hitch.
Additionally, Microsoft is in partnership with Razer and Logitech for its upcoming handheld cloud gaming devices – devices with potentially greater gaming appeal than the Apple’s all-rounder iPhone and iPad – and with their excellent Games Pass cloud gaming service already up and running (and smashing it) it seems like the perfect time to go large and grab a slice of the mobile action at last.
Microsoft famously fumbled the mobile ball back in pre- and post-iPhone introduction in 2007, allowing Apple to steal a march with new tech and create the App Store which has gone on to dominate.
Meanwhile Microsoft’s catch up activity – including the acquisition of once mobile giant Nokia – eventually came to naught. With lessons learnt its clear that Microsoft has been lining up its ducks and with the foundations in place, is ready to build something special.
It’s likely that a single gaming store (or cloud) option could soon be available across their own devices (Surface and so on) partnership devices (such as the Razer and Logitech units), PC desktop (of course) and all Android tablets and phones, with the might of Activision Blizzard behind the venture delivering the exclusives that matter.
And, perhaps in order to cover off all the bases, the company has also made Xbox Cloud Gaming compatible with Valve’s Steam Deck.
Eyes on the prize
Microsoft has acknowledged that over half of Activision Blizzard’s revenue for the first two quarters of 2022 came from mobile titles. Hence, it’s no surprise that the company wants to take advantage of Activision Blizzard’s mobile market, especially considering the console’s decline in revenue this year. Additionally, Xbox is planning to allow game developers to run their own app stores and offer their own payment systems for in-app purchases within the mobile store. This may entice developers to gamble on the Xbox mobile platform.
The only potential fly in the ointment is that the deal may be simply too good. While Microsoft have assured gaming fans (and competitors such as Sony) that titles such as Call of Duty will appear on PlayStation “for three years”, there are near infinite ways to pull the rug and win the prize.
The released CMA documents state that “Even if CoD games remained available on PlayStation following the Merger, the Merged Entity would still be able to engage in partial foreclosure by increasing the differentiation between the versions of CoD available on Xbox and on PlayStation. According to SIE, gamers may expect that CoD on Xbox will include extra content and enhanced interoperability with the console hardware, in addition to any benefits from membership in XGP. SIE submitted that these factors are likely to influence gamers’ choice of console.”
It’s fighting talk like this – stating what we all were thinking – that could put the dampener on Microsoft Actiblizz deal and while their end game plans sound impressive – and would open up a whole new world of competition in the market – the big players aren’t out of the woods just yet.