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Finally, the Microsoft/Activision Blizzard acquisition saga is over. Now the work begins | Opinion

How will this deal shape the future of the games industry?

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To report this morning that Microsoft has won over the UK regulator and can complete its acquisition of Activision Blizzard was a relief.

It was interesting, to begin with. It was even a bit fun being able to speak to all these interesting legal types and business leaders, on all sides, about the whole process.

But the protracted saga quickly turned unsavoury (to say the least) once PlayStation objected to the deal and the regulators started to raise serious concerns on its impact on the video games business as a whole.

And it was not just with the console fanboys, who have made the commercial success of their platform part of their identity. Even within the industry there's been more than its fair share of nasty hyperbole. Some of it public, some of it behind-the-scenes, ranging from exaggerated statements around the fact the UK being 'closed for business', to memes from games executives making fun of their peers.

But this part of the story is thankfully over now. And in the end, both the EU and the UK regulator the CMA have forced Microsoft into some pretty strong concessions around streaming (versus the US regulator, which has so far achieved nothing).

In the end, the debate around the impact on PlayStation faded away. PS5 is the dominant player in console (alongside Nintendo) and that appears unlikely to change. You can see this when looking at the latest sales charts, with PS5 extending its lead over Xbox over the past year.

Microsoft's release slate just hasn't been able to compete with what its rivals (which yes, does include Nintendo) have been offering. Last month's Starfield caused an expected improvement in sales and a lot of engaged players, but early console figures suggest that September still belonged to PlayStation in many territories.

As for the long-term impact of this deal on the console space, I actually feel it will be positive, and I don't mean in terms of which box is going to sell the best.

The deal will create more competition, not just in console hardware, but within the shooter genre, too

Most of Activision Blizzard's big games are largely centred around the PC platform (and mobile) – games like Warcraft, Diablo and Candy Crush. The really big console title of note is Call of Duty, but even if Microsoft does decide to stop making the game for Sony's consoles in 2033/2034 (when the deal between the two will end), that's a good ten years in which to build a competitor – whether that's a first-party or third-party one. I know some companies who have designs on Call of Duty's market share will view this as a great opportunity to team-up with PlayStation and its huge audience.

In other words, the deal will create more competition, not just in the console hardware space, but within the shooter genre, too.

The big issue was always around the impact this might have in the worlds of streaming and subscriptions in the future. It is this unknowable future that concerned the EU and UK regulators, which were wary of approving a deal that might, down the line, prove anti-competitive. Microsoft's concessions of giving away its streaming rights and enabling other streaming partners, in the end, was enough to convince the regulators it was safe.

But now it's time for the real work to start. It's time to get these two businesses together to work out how they can go about growing and transforming video games. And I have so many questions.

Microsoft typically likes to adopt a 'limited integration strategy'. That means, it buys a company, and largely leaves it the hell alone. It doesn't mess with what's working. It's something that worked with Minecraft and LinkedIn, and after a few high-profile acquisition failures, it makes sense for Microsoft to follow this path here.

However, Activision Blizzard will be Microsoft's third games publishing organisation alongside its own Xbox team and Bethesda. In a market where costs are high and game sales are unpredictable, might there be some integration needed here?

Microsoft was willing to sell Activision Blizzard's streaming rights to Ubisoft, so how important is cloud gaming to its long-term strategy?

Then we come to mobile. The Microsoft executive team has insisted this is a major mobile play, and with Candy Crush and Call of Duty, it now has some very strong mobile products. But this doesn't feel like enough to properly compete with the App Store or Google Play. Not yet. So what's the next stage in this mobile push?

What role will Blizzard, historically one of the industry's most successful PC game developers, have on Microsoft's fast growing PC games business, including Game Pass?

Speaking of Game Pass, what's the expected impact of games like Call of Duty on this service? What share could subscriptions now take of games spending, and what will that mean for the future of selling video games? This is something that could potentially impact the entire business, and especially independent creators.

And I am interested to find out why Microsoft was apparently comfortable with selling off the streaming rights to the Activision Blizzard library. Is this perhaps not the future of games after all?

There are so many interesting questions to answer. So many unknowns and concerns to analyse and discuss. Now that the endless 'will they/won't they' saga is finally at an end, we can sit down and spend some time discussing all of that. And finally discover what impact this whole deal might have on the future of the video games business.

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Christopher Dring avatar

Christopher Dring

Head of Games B2B

Chris is a 15-year media veteran specialising in the business of video games. And, erm, Doctor Who