Microsoft outlines new store principles and future of Activision projects

All eyes have been on Microsoft since it announced its plans to acquire Activision Blizzard. And many questions still circle as to what this will mean for the gaming industry, other competitors, and players. The acquisition of Bungie days later by PlayStation was viewed by some as a retaliatory answer to Microsoft’s possible monopoly. So begins the guessing game of who will buy what, with speculation that big studios like Square Enix are next.

Amid all the back and forth, rumors and confusion, the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission released a joint statement that they would join forces to investigate not only the Activision takeover, but would also examine how that could affect current video game competitors, and the practice of takeovers in general. Over the past two years, the number of bigger companies filing mergers has dramatically risen, causing concern for cornered markets.

However shortly thereafter, the DOJ said it would only be the job of the FTC to look into the matters. That doesn’t mean Microsoft/Activision Blizzard have a done deal. In fact, the FTC blocked a few major mergers last month, including Lockheed Martin’s deal to acquire Aerojet Rocketdyne Holding. It could take several months before the deal goes through, IF it goes through.

Promises, promises

Meanwhile, Microsoft is attempting to reassure PlayStation’s fan base, and those investigating the acquisition. The concerns are that it will neglect the current contracts Activision Blizzard has with Sony. In a lengthy statement released February 9, 2022, Brad Smith, President and Vice Chairman of Microsoft detailed the company’s plans for fostering equal play across all platforms and mobile.

Brad Smith issued a lengthy statement on behalf of Microsoft this week. Credit: Microsoft

“[Too] much friction exists today between creators and gamers; app store policies and practices on mobile devices restrict what and how creators can offer games and what and how gamers can play them,” Smith said. “Our large investment to acquire Activision Blizzard further strengthens our resolve to remove this friction on behalf of creators and gamers alike. We want to enable world-class content to reach every gamer more easily across every platform.”

Olive branches to PlayStation and Nintendo

Additionally, Microsoft finally broke their silence about where long standing franchises like Call of Duty will be moving forwards. “The obvious concern is that Microsoft could make this title available exclusively on the Xbox console, undermining opportunities for Sony PlayStation users,” said Smith, echoing multitudes of social media discussions since the announcement.

“To be clear, Microsoft will continue to make Call of Duty and other popular Activision Blizzard titles available on PlayStation through the term of any existing agreement with Activision. And we have committed to Sony that we will also make them available on PlayStation beyond the existing agreement and into the future so that Sony fans can continue to enjoy the games they love,” Smith assured fans.

Microsoft is also interested in offering the olive branch to Nintendo saying, “We believe this is the right thing for the industry, for gamers and for our business. Similar language was used before when Microsoft took over Bethesda. Unfortunately, they have walked those promises back in recent months, making Elder Scrolls 6 and future Fallout titles exclusive to Xbox.

New principles for fairness?

The letter explained what Microsoft plans to do for the future of its game store and apps. New legislation is currently under consideration by many governments around the world concentrating on fair use practices and tech regulations. Microsoft said it will adapt its own regulations to fit what it feels is best for consumers and game developers. “While change is not easy, we believe it’s possible to adapt to new rules and innovate successfully. And we believe it’s possible for governments to adopt new tech regulation that promotes competition while also protecting fundamental values like privacy and national and cyber security,” Smith said.

To do that, Microsoft introduced 11 new principles for its Open App Store and Online Store on Xbox consoles. The principles fall under four main areas:

  1. Quality, safety, security, and privacy
  2. Accountability
  3. Fairness and transparency
  4. Developer choice.

These new rules cover everything from protecting consumers data, holding Microsoft’s own apps to the standards it holds competing apps, to not preventing developers from communicating directly with their consumers. Principles 1 through 7 went live immediately on Wednesday. Numbers 8 through 11, specifically aimed at developer choice, will be implemented later.

There are still a lot of questions about what the future of the gaming industry looks like. Time will tell if Microsoft really plans to stand by its word, or if this is merely a political move. For now, a cautious sigh of relief could be in order. As always, you can depend upon us to keep you up to date as things move forward.

Do Microsoft’s words ring true? Have you already noticed any changes to their app store? Let us know.

Alicia Graves

A bit nerdy, a bit punk rock princess, and a whole lot of mom, I'm constantly in motion. I have an enthusiasm for gaming and the cultural complexities of entertainment, both past and present. I don’t believe in limiting myself to one kind of genre in books, comics, manga, anime, music or movies. I prefer to seek out hidden gems in panned pieces, uniqueness in the mundane and new outlooks on nuances.
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