Call of Duty on Xbox Game Pass, is that the antitrust problem?

Over the last few hours, Piers Harding-Rolls, research director and analyst at Ampere Games, gave a long interview to GamesIndustry, probably revealing the real reason the acquisition of Activision Blizzard by Microsoft is having more difficulty in its approval. And this reason, although not explicitly stated, is not only Call of Duty, but Xbox Game Pass. Let's go in order and try to understand if Harding-Rolls' words are behind it is indeed the knot of discord.

  • Because Xbox Game Pass can be the real crux of discord

    Pierre Harding-Rolls began by talking about Xbox Game Pass and how strategically the service can grow dramatically with the inclusion of Call of Duty within the catalog. There is obviously no certainty that the series can be added immediately to the service, but it is very likely that this will happen, as done in the past for example with Bethesda.

    "The inclusion of Warzone", continues Piers Harding-Rolls, "may even be the result of additional perks, which would help engagement and retention". Exactly as happened with the games of Riot Games, therefore, downloading one of the two (three, also counting the DMZ mode) games could have advantages for the end user, which is why the user would be even more enticed to subscribe to the service. And it is precisely here that we believe the doubts of the antitrust are hiding.

    Call of Duty is just a Trojan horse

    Whenever the antitrust authorities speak of a possible monopoly, it is very probable that some executives are not referring only to that of video games, but to that of the cloud. With Google Stadia shutting down, if the Activision Blizzard acquisition goes into place, Microsoft would have an unprecedented offer in its hands, which would also justify any price increase. And it is very likely that this is where the greatest doubts of the regulators are concentrated, who would like to avoid an ambiguous situation.

    How do you get out of this situation?

    Microsoft knows it well: to get out of this situation it is necessary to work on a strategy. The history of similar successful operations plays in favor of the house of Redmond, but the reality is that entertainment and video games are two different markets, which do not respond to the same rules. Suing Disney, for example, would be a mistake given that Marvel continued to operate on other platforms and broadcasters before the arrival of Disney Plus and the cinema market has always seen the release of films in cinemas.

    In order to be able to unlock the negotiation, from our point of view, reassurances are needed. And the reassurances that are currently being made by Microsoft they are probably not enough. Because yes, the problem will also be Call of Duty, but even before the franchise there are the infrastructures, which may not even arise given the frightening power of the Redmond giant if the acquisition is successful.

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