Microsoft has now announced a major restructuring of its proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard Inc., the maker of popular games such as Call of Duty, Overwatch, and World of Warcraft. With this move, Microsoft has agreed to sell the cloud game streaming rights for all current and new Activision Blizzard games to Ubisoft Entertainment SA. This allows Microsoft to acquire a narrower set of rights which basically addresses the concerns raised by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).
Activision Games for next 15 years to be available on Ubisoft+
Cloud game streaming is a technology that allows players to access games on various devices without downloading or installing them, using the internet and cloud computing. Microsoft offers its own cloud game streaming service, Xbox Cloud Gaming, which is part of its Xbox Game Pass subscription.
Ubisoft also has its own cloud streaming subscription called Ubisoft+ that will now be adding all the current and future Activision games for up to 15 years as a part of the agreement. Ubisoft+ is available across PC, Xbox, Amazon Luna, and on PlayStation via Ubisoft Plus Classics. In other words, all the titles that will be released by Activision over the next 15 years will be available on Ubisoft+.
For those unaware, CMA had blocked Microsoft’s $68.7 billion deal for Activision Blizzard in April, citing that it could harm the nascent market for cloud gaming and reduce consumer choice and innovation. This decision has been made by Microsoft in accordance with CMA’s concerns.
The rights will be in perpetuity and will give Ubisoft the opportunity to offer Activision Blizzard’s games to cloud gaming services running non-Windows operating systems. Microsoft president Brad Smith said in a statement that “Ubisoft will compensate Microsoft for the cloud streaming rights to Activision Blizzard’s games through a one-off payment and through a market-based wholesale pricing mechanism, including an option that supports pricing based on usage”.
He further added that Microsoft will not be in a position either to release Activision Blizzard games exclusively on its own cloud streaming service or to exclusively control the licensing terms of Activision Blizzard games for rival services. The new deal also brings a new regulatory investigation phase in the UK that could last until October 18th. This is also the same deadline that Microsoft recently agreed upon in its extension of the deal closing date with Activision.
“Since our initial announcement with Activision Blizzard in January last year, we have endeavored to earn regulatory approval for the transaction, addressing concerns when raised, including by entering into binding legal commitments to bring Call of Duty to rival consoles and Activision Blizzard games to rival cloud streaming platforms. As a result, the transaction now is in a position to move forward in more than 40 countries”, said Smith.