Apple and Google already have a virtual monopoly on the distribution of mobile apps for their platforms, especially games. On iOS, third-party stores are generally prohibited by Apple’s rules, but even on Android, where users can install games and apps from outside the Play Store, alternative stores have not been able to achieve significant success.
To break this duopoly, Microsoft is currently gearing up to launch its own mobile game store, and the company is betting on future rule changes. In an interview with the Financial Times, Microsoft’s head of gaming, Phil Spencer, said the EU’s Digital Market Act (DMA), which will come into effect next March, will help the company achieve its mobile app store ambitions. DMA will allow companies to download their app stores on Apple and Android devices, requiring Apple and Google to open up their ecosystems.
“We want to be able to offer content from both us and our partners on any screen anyone wants to play,” Spencer said. “We can’t do that on mobile today, but we want to build a world that we think will be there when those devices are open.”
Over the past five years, Microsoft has acquired a host of gaming studios, including Ninja Theory, Playground Games, owner of Bethesda Zenimax Media, and is in talks with regulators to finalize a deal to buy Activision Blizzard. If the deal with Activision goes through, Microsoft will be able to gain a foothold in the mobile market through its store with games like Call of Duty Mobile and Candy Crush Saga, as well as new releases. Notably, Activision Blizzard makes a significant amount of money from mobile games, so controlling distribution through its own store would give Microsoft an edge.
The biggest challenge facing Microsoft is completing the deal with Activision Blizzard as US, UK and EU regulators scrutinize the merger. Last month, the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it would launch an antitrust investigation over concerns that the deal could harm gamers due to “higher prices, less choice”. Microsoft tried to appease regulators by saying it was ready to make a long-term commitment to releasing popular games like Call of Duty on competitor platforms.
However, another problem is that not only Microsoft is waiting for the opening of platforms. Last week , Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney said that the company has its own game store for iOS and Android ready, and the company is also waiting for a turning point in the mobile industry.
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