What does the Microsoft deal to buy Activision mean for gamers?

Microsoft owns the Xbox brand (PA)
Microsoft owns the Xbox brand (PA)

Microsoft’s multibillion-dollar deal to buy video game maker Activision Blizzard has been cleared by the UK’s competition regulator.

It cleared the way for the Xbox owner to complete one of the biggest takeovers ever in the tech sector.

But what does it mean for gamers now that the maker of Call Of Duty will be owned by the firm behind the Xbox games console?

A gamer playing Call Of Duty
Call Of Duty was developed by Activison (PA)

– What are the details?

Microsoft has paid just under 69 billion dollars (£56 billion) to take over Activision Blizzard, the video games developer behind franchises such as Call Of Duty, World Of Warcraft, Overwatch and mobile giant Candy Crush, among others.

Following the Xbox owner’s acquisition of another large gaming studio, Bethesda, in 2020, Microsoft says it will help boost its Game Pass platform – the company’s Netflix-style gaming subscription service – and better compete with Sony and Nintendo in the gaming market.

– Why has the deal been delayed until now?

Industry rival Sony raised concerns that Microsoft could stop some big games from being available on the PlayStation.

Call Of Duty is one of the biggest entertainment franchises in the world, making millions of dollars for console makers with each new instalment every year.

Regulators in the US, UK and EU also expressed fears over the impact the deal would have on competition in the gaming market, and whether it would mean Microsoft could make it more expensive and more difficult to play some games on non-Xbox consoles.

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) initially blocked the deal and asked Microsoft to revise it in order to ensure competition in the industry would be protected.

– What has Microsoft done in response?

The key revision to the deal is Microsoft has agreed to hand the distribution rights to Activision games via the cloud to French gaming publisher Ubisoft, which the CMA said prevented Microsoft from having a “stranglehold” over the UK cloud gaming market.

Microsoft has also moved to appease Sony and Nintendo’s fears over game availability by signing deals with the two firms which promise that Call Of Duty games will be available to their users for 10 years after the deal goes through.

– So will anything change for gamers once the deal goes through?

In the short term, it is unlikely gamers will see a huge change in the availability of current, popular Activision Blizzard titles.

Xbox boss Phil Spencer has pledged just that.

“Whether you play on Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo, PC or mobile, you are welcome here – and will remain welcome, even if Xbox isn’t where you play your favourite franchise. Because when everyone plays, we all win,” he said as the deal was completed.

But things could change in the longer term – the Ubisoft cloud gaming deal has been signed for 15 years, and it is unclear what Microsoft may choose to do after that.

The biggest game released by Bethesda since its Microsoft takeover, Starfield, was exclusive to Xbox and PC.