The UK’s Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) has released a series of mostly anonymous statements from gaming companies, and they all provisionally agree that Microsoft’s proposed deal to buy Activision Blizzard would not be a bad thing for the overall video game industry.
The CMA uploaded documents from six different “market participants” who shared their thoughts on the buyout. Only one company, 4J, went on record and kept its name public–the other five submitted their opinions anonymously.
4J is an independent studio but it is financially involved with Microsoft, as it developed a number of Xbox games and Minecraft’s console editions. 4J boss Chris van der Kuyl said Microsoft has never pressured 4J to “favor” Microsoft-owned formats.
“Indeed we were actively encouraged by Microsoft to develop unique content such as the ‘Mario Mash Up’ pack for Nintendo formats. Microsoft have also brought significant stability and rigor to our contractual and commercial relationships and have been both fair and professional in all our dealings with them,” the executive said.
Van der Kuyl went on to say that it was inevitable that a company like Microsoft would seek to expand its business over time, like every company tries to do. “We do not see the proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard as anything other than a natural evolution of the industry and it does not give us any cause for concern for our own future opportunities,” he said.
A statement from “Market Participant B,” meanwhile, states, “We do not believe that any title can be considered a ‘must-have,’ in the interactive entertainment market.” As such, this company said Microsoft’s proposed deal to buy Activision Blizzard will not negatively impact consumers.
“Market Participant C,” meanwhile, is the CEO from an independent game studio that says they worked with “top game publishers,” including Microsoft, Sony, and Activision. This unnamed executive said Microsoft is trustworthy (“Microsoft always honors their contracts and obligations”) and that consolidation toward cloud-based platforms is simply an inevitability.
“To build a stronger catalogue, other platforms also aspire to acquire publishers and developers,” this person said. “Such consolidation is a natural evolution of the business and does not necessarily constitute SLCs.”
This person went on to say that competition from China is a real concern, and asked the CMA to consider if UK consumers would be better served if Tencent swooped in to buy Activision Blizzard.
“Chinese publishers in our industry benefit from an unfair advantage due to the fact that the China market is closed to Western companies through various regulations while Chinese companies can freely access the Western markets. Letting Microsoft and Activision consolidate their business in light of this fast-growing competition would not be against the interest of UK consumers,” they said.
“Market Participant D,” a developer and publisher of AAA games across all major consoles, acknowledged that it is difficult to predict the precise effects of Microsoft’s proposed buyout of Activision Blizzard on the wider industry. However, they said if the deal goes through, it likely wouldn’t have a negative impact on the distribution of its games on Xbox and other consoles.
Another opinion was submitted by “Market Participant E,” a multiplatform game distributor. This person said sales of its games on PlayStation platforms have grown stagnant due to bigger games getting more attention. Sony also gives preferential treatment to studios and publishers who are willing to spend “lots of money” on paid marketing, they said.
“This means that on PlayStation, it simply isn’t a level playing field for every publisher and developer. It has meant that as the years have gone by, if you put a smaller titles on PlayStation devices now, your title will rarely appear organically to PlayStation players. Instead, you are 100% reliant on players knowing about your game already, and searching for it on the store,” they said.
On Xbox, “the opposite has come true” for this unnamed company, thanks to Xbox’s discovery tools and Xbox Game Pass.
“As a result, we’ve found that, despite Xbox having much smaller player numbers and console sales than PlayStation, our games sell just as well on Xbox, since more players are finding our games there. We usually find that the revenue we now make from new games, is more on Xbox than PlayStation due to this fact–again, despite Xbox being the smaller platform in many ways,” this person said.
Whoever this person is, and whatever company they represent, they believe Microsoft’s proposed deal to buy Activision Blizzard “can only be a good thing” for small- to mid-size companies.
“Coupled with the fact that Xbox has a better ecosystem currently for players to discover new games, I can only see the acquisition being a positive for a lot of businesses like ours. The acquisition will not all of a sudden make Xbox the dominant platform,” they said. “It’s far more likely that it may help to create a more level playing field between Xbox and PlayStation which, at this point in time, is sorely needed. PlayStation needs better competition, to force the platform to up its game, and this will surely help to do that.”
Finally, “Market Participant F” said in its statement that the arguments against Microsoft’s deal to buy Activision Blizzard have been “slightly exaggerated and out of proportion.”
Blocking the same could potentially hinder “real competition and more innovative consumer-friendly initiatives” in the video game market, this person said. They added that Activision Blizzard joining Microsoft could help address Activision Blizzard’s workplace and sexual harassment issues.
“While we do not want to point fingers at anyone’s struggle to create and maintain a good culture for employees, as this is challenging for any company and has always been, we do see that a change in ‘scenery’ with a new home at MS might be good for some of our colleague’s working in the studios on the various projects,” they said.
Microsoft is facing pressure and scrutiny over the proposed merger in the US as well, as the FTC has sued Microsoft to block the deal. Seemingly in a bid to get the deal done, Microsoft has announced a couple long-term deals to bring its games to more platforms if the deal goes through. Keep checking back with GameSpot for the latest.
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