Microsoft is planning to build an Xbox mobile gaming store to compete with other storefronts like Google Play and App Store. Microsoft’s mobile ambitions were revealed as part of the software giant’s filings with the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) regarding the planned acquisition of Activision Blizzard.
As part of its filing, Microsoft states that a significant motivation behind the acquisition is to fill out its mobile gaming presence with developmental and design expertise from ActiBlizz that can be spread across the rest of Microsoft’s studios, and also give it a stable of games and IPs to help launch a mobile gaming storefront alternative to Google Play and the App Store.
Quoting Microsoft: “2.6.d … the Transaction will improve Microsoft’s ability to create a next generation game store which operates across a range of devices, including mobile as a result of the addition of Activision Blizzard’s content. Building on Activision Blizzard’s existing communities of gamers, Xbox will seek to scale the Xbox Store to mobile, attracting gamers to a new Xbox Mobile Platform. Shifting consumers away from the Google Play Store and App Store on mobile devices will, however, require a major shift in consumer behaviour. Microsoft hopes that by offering well-known and popular content, gamers will be more inclined to try something new. The Open App Store Principles announced by Microsoft will apply to the next generation game store.”
To say that enticing mobile gamers to a new gaming centric storefront would “require a major shift in consumer behavior” is a hell of an understatement, and Microsoft has fumbled in its mobile initiatives in the past (RIP Windows Phone). But Microsoft’s newer efforts to expand in the mobile space seems better thought out, with a multipronged strategy of meeting gamers wherever they are: on desktop, console, and the increasingly critical mobile market, with offerings like Xbox Cloud Gaming. An Xbox mobile storefront would be a logical step in such a strategy, so these revelations really shouldn’t be a surprise if you’re paying attention to what Microsoft has been up to.
An interesting element here is Microsoft’s commitment to “Open App Store Principles” that it announced in February 2022, partially in response to concerns around the Activision Blizzard deal locking up IPs and creating walled gardens. They’re a series of design principles and business practices such as security and transparency, keeping developer choices open, and accepting multiple payment processors, in an attempt to woo developers, investors, and be a step ahead of regulators increasingly concerned about walled garden online storefronts.
While the CMA’s regulatory inquiries seem to focus on the effect that the Activision Blizzard acquisition would affect console gaming, Microsoft’s filing states that the mobile side of Activision Blizzard could be far more important to Microsoft as mobile gaming continues to grow in importance to in the videogaming industry.
Regulatory inquiries around Microsoft’s intended acquisition of Activision Blizzard have been a gold mine for journalists and anyone interested in getting a behind the scenes look at the business side of the videogaming industry. In addition to the Xbox mobile storefront plans revealed in Microsoft’s filing to the UK CMA, documents from Brazil’s Administrative Council for Economic Defense (CADE) have also given us possibly the first clear look at how much money Xbox Game Pass makes. As the Activision Blizzard acquisition continues to grind its way through regulatory hurdles, it’ll undoubtedly reveal more about the inner workings of the videogames industry.