Category Archives: Microsoft

Phil Spencer Says Sony Wants to Grow At Xbox’s Expense



Public squabbling between two of the biggest console gaming companies has intensified, Kotaku reported. According to Kotaku, on a recent podcast appearance, Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer blasted Sony for wanting to grow by “making Xbox smaller.”

The accusation comes after the Federal Trade Commission decided to sue to block Microsoft’s takeover of Activision because of a pattern of making recently acquired games like Starfield exclusive.

VideoGamesChronicle reported that Phil Spencer made the comments during an interview with the Second Request podcast, where the exec claimed that Sony was the “one major opposer to the [Microsoft Activision] deal.”

According to VideoGamesChronicle, Phil Spencer said: “Sony is trying to protect its dominance on the console. The way they grow is by making Xbox smaller,” Spencer said. “[Sony] has a very different view of the industry than we do. They don’t ship their games day and date on PC, they do not put their games into their subscription when they launch their games.”

VideoGamesChronicle also reported that Phil Spencer said “Sony is leading the dialogue around why the deal shouldn’t go through to protect its dominant position on console, so the thing the grab onto is Call of Duty”, Spencer told Second Request. “The largest console maker in the world raising an objection about the one franchise that we’ve said will continue to ship on the platform. It’s a deal that benefits customers through choice and access.”

Forbes reported that Xbox’s head Phil Spencer, normally an industry nice-guy, has had enough with Sony’s relentless protests to regulators over Microsoft’s attempt to purchase Activision Blizzard. These days, the gloves are coming off, and the language he’s using is as sharp as it’s ever been.

According to Forbes, the pushback to Sony’s objections is that they are transparently self-serving, and one argument Microsoft has made is to play up PlayStation’s position as market leader while downplaying Xbox’s position, including their relative lack of first party hits compared to Sony.

Forbes noted that Sony, meanwhile, very much does not want Xbox to get larger by acquiring a company with a market cap dangerously close to the entire size of Sony ($100 billion versus $70 billion). But while there’s an argument to be made about the size of the deal, it’s also pretty apparent that Sony is being obstructionist for its own sake to try and kill something that will benefit their rival and hurt them.

Personally, I don’t think anyone can know, for certain, how the FTC’s lawsuit against Microsoft will turn out. While it does appear that Sony is desperately trying to be the loudest voice against Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard, that doesn’t mean a court will have the same opinion as Sony does.


The Ghost Of Instagram Haunts Microsoft’s Future



The catchy headline at the top of this blog post was the title Reuters selected for its article. It is an ominous sounding title, indicating that Microsoft will have difficulty with the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC’s) lawsuit against the company.

Reuters reported that Facebook is Microsoft’s antitrust boogeyman. The U.S. regulatory agency, the Federal Trade Commission, is seeking to block the software titan’s $69 billion deal for gaming giant Activision Blizzard, partly to stop domination of the industry as it evolves. The FTC’s leader Lina Khan might be making up for regulators who waved through Mark Zuckerberg’s $1 billion purchase of Instagram. Though Microsoft’s deal is different, punishment under Khan’s regime seemed inevitable.

According to Reuters, the FTC is concerned that Microsoft, the owner of the Xbox gaming console, will withhold popular games made by Activision, including Call of Duty and World of Warcraft from competing platforms including Sony’s PlayStation and Nintendo’s Switch. Microsoft has tried to appease this concern. This month, the company led by Satya Nadella agreed to offer games to Nintendo and Sony for 10 years.

The New York Times posted an article titled: “Lina Kahn, Aiming to Block Microsoft’s Activision Deal, Faces a Challenge”. This is a more optimistic title than the one Reuters chose. The New York Times reported that Lina Khan has pledged to usher in a new era of trustbusting of America’s corporate giants, recently saying the agency plans to “enforce the antitrust laws to ensure maximal efficacy.”

According to The New York Times, Ms. Khan has staked that ambitious agenda on a case that may be highly challenging for the agency to win. Ms. Khan and the FTC face hurdles in trying to stop the Microsoft-Activision deal, experts said. That’s because courts have been skeptical of challenges to so-called vertical mergers, where the two businesses don’t compete directly. In this case, Microsoft is best known in gaming as the maker of the Xbox console, while Activision is a major publisher of blockbuster titles such as Call of Duty.

The New York Times also reported that Microsoft has vowed to fight the FTCs lawsuit against the Activision purchase. On Thursday, Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president, said the company had “complete confidence in our case and welcome the opportunity to present it in court.” On Friday Microsoft pointed to previous statements that it believes the deal would expand competition and create more opportunities for gamers and game developers.

The Wall Street Journal reported that in the typical antitrust case, the government challenges a horizontal merger, or one involving rivals that compete head-to-head. Such mergers, by removing a competitor from the marketplace, can increase concentration, a factor that can be used to infer harmful effects such as higher prices.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the government has struggled to win cases on vertical mergers because making claims about the potential future harms posed by such deals is less straightforward and can require complex speculation about how market forces might play out.

Personally, I think it is going to take a very long time to sort this situation out in court. This is happening during the holiday season, and I cannot help but wonder if gamers who wanted to buy a console will hold off until they know the outcome of the Microsoft – Activision Blizzard acquisition.


FTC Sues To Block Microsoft’s Acquisition of Activision



The Federal Trade Commission on Thursday sued to block Microsoft’s $69 billion acquisition of the video game publisher Activision Blizzard, charging that the massive deal would allow the Washington tech giant to suppress its competitors in gaming, The Washington Post reported.

According to The Washington Post, the lawsuit represents the FTC’s most significant effort to rein in consolidation in the tech industry since prominent tech critic Lina Khan (D) became the commission’s chair and was expected to usher in an era of antitrust enforcement characterized by a willingness to bring cases in court rather than pursue settlements with companies.

The FTC lawsuit against Microsoft could foil the company’s ambitions to become a heavier hitter in gaming frontiers. Activision is the owner of popular titles such as Candy Crush and Call of Duty, and its acquisition could bolster Microsoft in its competition with Japanese console makers Nintendo and Sony.

The Washington Post also reported that the commission voted Thursday on a party-line vote to issue the lawsuit in administrative court, with the three Democrats in favor of the complaint and one Republican against it.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) posted the following:

The Federal Trade Commission is seeking to block technology giant Microsoft Corp. from acquiring leading video game developer Activision Blizzard, Inc. and its blockbuster gaming franchises such as Call of Duty, alleging that the $69 billion deal, Microsoft’s largest ever and the largest ever in the gaming industry, would enable Microsoft to suppress competitors to its Xbox gaming consoles and its rapidly growing subscription content and cloud-gaming business.

In a complaint issue today, the FTC pointed to Microsoft’s record of acquiring and using valuable gaming content to suppress competition from rival consoles, including its acquisition of ZeniMax, parent company of Bethesda Softworks (a well-known game developer). Microsoft decided to make several of Bethesda’s titles, including Starfield and Redial Microsoft exclusives despite assurances that it had given to European antitrust authorities that it had no incentive to withhold games from rival consoles…

…Activision is one of only a very small number of top video game developers in the world that create and publish high-quality video games for multiple devices, including video game consoles, PCs, and mobile devices. It produces some the most iconic and popular video game titles, including Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Diablo, and Overwatch, and has millions of monthly active users around the word, according to the FTC’s complaint. Activision currently has a strategy of offering its games on many devices regardless of producer.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Sony has been the loudest critic of the planned Activision deal, arguing that it could hurt competition if Microsoft restricts access to Activision games, especially Call of Duty, due to the franchise’s exceptional popularity.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Microsoft has said it doesn’t plan to deny Sony and others access to Activision games and that its deal for the company wouldn’t hurt competition. The company has publicly pledged to give Sony and Nintendo access to new Call of Duty games on their consoles for the next 10 years. Though Microsoft doesn’t disclose Xbox sales, it has said it would still be the third-largest video game console maker after Sony and Nintendo after merging with Activision.

What does this mean for gamers? It seems to me that the FTC’s decision to sue Microsoft over the Activision Blizzard acquisition means there could be a lengthy court battle. There is no way to know how a court will decide this case. Based on what I’ve seen on social media, there are a lot of gamers who hoped the acquisition would happen. The FTC’s decision to sue is disappointing.


Microsoft Wants To Build Its Own Mobile Gaming Store



As the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) investigates Microsoft’s $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard, Microsoft recently revealed in its filings with the CMA that it plans to create a new “Xbox Mobile Platform” that will include mobile games by Activision and King, TechCrunch reported.

According to TechCrunch, Microsoft also added in its filings with the CMA, “Mobile revenues from the King division and titles such as ‘Call of Duty: Mobile’, as well as ancillary revenue, represented more than half of Activision Blizzard’s revenues and in the first half of 2022.”

The Verge reported that Microsoft is building an Xbox mobile store to directly offer games on mobile devices, challenging Apple and Google. The software giant first hinted at a “next-generation” store it would “build for games” earlier this year, but has now quietly revealed details of the plans in filings with the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

The Verge posted a portion of Microsoft’s filings:

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 Platform. Shifting consumers away from the Google Play Store and App Store on mobile devices will, however, require a major shift in consumer behavior. Microsoft hopes that by offering well-known and popular content, gamers will be more inclined to try something new.

According to The Verge, Microsoft could leverage ‘Call of Duty: Mobile’ and ‘Candy Crush Saga’, two hugely popular games published by Activision and King, respectively, and Microsoft could leverage these titles to help build out a game store to rival Google Play and the App Store. Given Apple’s policies blocking third-party app stores on iOS, it’s difficult to imagine Microsoft competing on iPhones anytime soon. But that’s clearly not stopping it from envisioning an Xbox mobile app store.

Forbes reported: “While we may have all suspected this was probably the case, Microsoft, as part of its ongoing effort to get its acquisition of Activision Blizzard approved, has revealed that Sony has been blocking Call of Duty from coming to Games Pass, and may continue to block it even if the deal ultimately goes through.

Forbes pointed out that Microsoft told the CMA: “The agreement between Activision Blizzard and Sony includes restrictions on the ability of Activision Blizzard to place Call of Duty title on Game Pass for a number of years.” According to Forbes, this is significant because this is part of the deal that Phil Spencer referenced when he said Microsoft had the “intent to honor all existing agreements upon acquisition of Activision Blizzard.”

It would be interesting if the U.K.’s CMA decides against Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard specifically because Sony has objections to allowing Microsoft to have access to ‘Call of Duty’. Perhaps the CMA could allow the transaction to go through, but without ‘Call of Duty’.


Microsoft’s Adaptive Accessories Have A Release Date



Microsoft has announced that its range of Adaptive Accessories will be available to purchase starting October 25th in select markets, The Verge reported. The Adaptive Accessories were first announced in May and are designed to address common issues that can prevent people from getting the most out of their PC, especially if they have difficulty using a traditional mouse and keyboard.

According to The Verge, the wireless system includes a programmable button, an adaptive mouse, and the Microsoft Adaptive Hub, which connects up to four Microsoft Adaptive Buttons to as many as three devices.

The mouse is a small, square-shaped puck that can clip into a palm rest with a removable tail and thumb support. The mouse and button can be customized using a range of modular components, enabling users to find the best fit to suit their usability requirements. For example, the adaptive buttons let you add eight programmable inputs to your computer, allowing them to be used as a joystick or D-pad.

Back in May, Microsoft provided some explanation about the Microsoft adaptive accessories:

The new Microsoft adaptive accessories provide a highly adaptable, easy-to-use system. Each piece is designed in partnership with the disability community to empower people who may have difficulty using a traditional mouse and keyboard to create their ideal setup, increase productivity, and use their favorite apps more effectively. A traditional mouse and keyboard may pose obstacles for someone with limited mobility.

These adaptive accessories can perform a variety of functions, thereby alleviating a pain point for those who find it challenging to get the most out of their PC. The Microsoft adaptive accessories have three main ways that work best for your specific needs.

Right now, it is unclear what the price of the Microsoft Adaptive Accessories will be. However, The Verge reported that the mouse and button support 3D-printed accessories for a fully personalized experience, and both Business and Education customers will be able to 3D-print adaptive grips from Shapeways for the Microsoft Business Pen and Microsoft Classroom Pen 2. Community designers have previously made free printable files available for other accessibility accessories, such as the Xbox Adaptive Controller.

I think it is wonderful that Microsoft is making games more accessible to people who require adaptive tools in order to get the most out of the video games they play. This could literally be a “game changer” for people who struggle with keyboards and/or mouses, and who could benefit from using a joystick or D-pad instead. I say this as a person with disabilities that can cause me to stop playing a video game due to the pain in my hands.


Windows 11’s Widgets Button Will Now Show Taskbar Alerts



Microsoft is rolling out a taskbar notification system to its Windows 11 widgets this week, The Verge reported. According to The Verge, Microsoft’s weather widget returned to Windows 11 earlier this year, it’s largely been a static experience that displays a sunny icon when the weather is good and an umbrella when its raining and “sucks to be outside”.

As of this week, Microsoft is now adding live animations to this taskbar widget. All Windows users will start to see these new widget notifications in the coming days and weeks, thanks to an update to the Windows Web Experience Pack that powers Microsoft’s widgets feature. The notifications on the taskbar weather widget, and include alerts for thunderstorms and even ticker alerts when stocks you’re following go up or down, The Verge reported.

Microsoft provided a support article titled “Stay up to date with widgets”. It explains that if you have the latest version of Windows but still don’t see all the widgets features below, it may be because some features are being rolled out to customers over several weeks and aren’t available to all customers at once.

Each widget is powered by a different app or service. To see what is powering a widget, select the More Options (…) in the upper-right corner of the widget, and look for the “Powered by” message at the bottom of the menu. Each individual widget is an extension of its corresponding app or service and is controlled by the settings for that app or service. This means the way to change your privacy settings for a widget is to change them for the app or service that powers that widget.

The support article also states that you can pin or unpin widgets and customize the widgets board to suit your needs.

Windows Central reported that the widgets will display alerts that could consist of severe weather warnings, stock changes, and breaking news.

According to Windows Central, the new widget functionality arrives in the form of a store update for the Web Experiences Pack, which is normally updated automatically, but users can manually search for the update by heading to the Microsoft Store app and selecting “Get Updates”. That said, it can take a while for all users to see the update.

Overall, it sounds like Microsoft is going to slowly roll out the new widgets to Windows 11 users. The Verge reported that Microsoft is planning to release its next major OS update on September 20. The update will include new app folders in the Start menu, drag and drop on the taskbar, new touch gestures, and more.


CMA Investigates Microsoft Acquisition of Activision Blizzard



The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced that it is investigating the anticipated acquisition by Microsoft Corporation of Activision Blizzard, Inc. The CMA stated that July 6, 2022 is the launch of the merger inquiry, and it gave notice to the parties. From the CMA:

“6 July 2022: The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is considering whether it is or may be the case that this transaction, if carried into effect, will result in the creation of a relevant merger situation under the merger provisions of the Enterprise Act of 2002 and, if so, whether the creation of that situation may be expected to result in a substantial lessening of competition within any market or markets in the United Kingdom for goods or services.”

CNBC reported that the U.K’s Competition and Market Authority said its investigation would consider whether the deal may harm competition – “for example, through higher prices, lower quality, or reduced choice.” According to CNBC, the CMA set a September 1 deadline for its initial decision.

CNBC also reported that Lisa Tanzi, Microsoft’s corporate vice president and general counsel, said regulatory scrutiny of the deal was to be expected, adding the company would “fully cooperate” with the CMA.

If approved, CNBC reported, the acquisition would have huge implications for the $190 billion video game industry, handing control of incredibly lucrative franchises including Call of Duty, Candy Crush and Warcraft to one of the world’s biggest tech companies.

TechCrunch reported that the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is also currently investigating the Microsoft – Activision Blizzard deal. According to TechCrunch, the FTC regulators have been known “to scupper, or add provisions, to deals, as well as nod them through.”

All of this comes as Activision Blizzard faces what seems to be an ongoing series of controversies. The company was the subject of a two-year investigation by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which it described as having a “‘frat boy’ workplace culture” and a “breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women.”

TechCrunch pointed out that CEO Bobby Kotick reportedly knew about, yet failed to act, over sexual misconduct and rape allegations.

In short, Activision Blizzard is currently, and has been, a mess. While it is important to keep in mind that there are some wonderful, creative, people who work for that company, it is the inaction of the CEO and the Board that is allowing the controversy to continue. I honestly hope that the regulators allow the Microsoft – Activision Blizzard merger – if for no other reason than to give the employees a better work environment.