In a surprising turn of events, Microsoft has decided to hand over the streaming rights for Activision Blizzard games to Ubisoft, pending the successful completion of its $68.7 billion acquisition of the renowned Call of Duty publisher. This strategic move by Microsoft is aimed at addressing concerns raised by cautious UK regulators, signaling a shift from its initial plans.
Should the revised deal be approved, Ubisoft will assume the streaming rights for all forthcoming Activision Blizzard PC and console titles for the next 15 years.
Importantly, these rights will continue indefinitely after that initial period. In essence, if Microsoft secures Activision, then Ubisoft’s cloud services will become the gateway to streaming the next 15 years of Call of Duty games and more.
Microsoft’s President, Brad Smith, explained that this change will relinquish Microsoft’s control over the “exclusive” streaming rights of Activision Blizzard games.
In a blog post, Smith clarified, “Under the restructured transaction, Microsoft will not be in a position either to release Activision Blizzard games exclusively on its own cloud streaming service – Xbox Cloud Gaming – or to exclusively control the licensing terms of Activision Blizzard games for rival services.”
Ubisoft’s Expansive Opportunity: Cloud Gaming Landscape
Ubisoft’s involvement brings forth a new era of possibilities. The company will have the freedom to license these games to an array of cloud gaming and subscription platforms.
Under the agreement, Ubisoft will compensate Microsoft for the rights to each title through a “one-off payment” coupled with a pricing structure aligned with usage.
Microsoft’s rapid growth in the game-streaming sector emerged as a primary concern for the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). This concern led the CMA to halt Microsoft’s initial deal in April, citing the risk of stifling competition in the evolving cloud gaming market.
Regulatory Hurdles and New Beginnings
The Ubisoft+ lineup is expanding!
We're excited to announce a new agreement that will bring Activision Blizzard games to Ubisoft+ via streaming upon the completion of Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard!
We’ll also be licensing the games to a range of cloud streaming… pic.twitter.com/sZTnEFJedC
— Ubisoft (@Ubisoft) August 22, 2023
The CMA has responded swiftly to this turn of events. While the previous deal is now officially off the table, the new arrangement has sparked fresh interest from regulators. This renewed arrangement will undergo a comprehensive investigation, with a deadline set for October 18th.
CMA’s Chief, Sarah Cardell, clarified, “This is not a green light. We will carefully and objectively assess the details of the restructured deal and its impact on competition, including in light of third-party comments.” The goal remains unaltered: ensuring that the flourishing cloud gaming market maintains a healthy competition that fosters innovation and choices.
The unexpected shift in the Microsoft-Activision Blizzard deal marks an exciting and pivotal moment in the world of game streaming. As the investigation unfolds, industry experts and gamers alike eagerly await the outcome, which could significantly reshape the landscape of cloud gaming and pave the way for fresh possibilities in the years to come.