Apple and Google have had a stranglehold on the distribution of mobile apps through their app store. Although Google’s Android allows alternative app stores, they have failed to significantly compete with the Play Store. Microsoft is now preparing to build its own mobile game store to break this duopoly, and the company is banking on regulation for that.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Microsoft’s head of games Phil Spencer said the EU’s Digital Marketplace Act (DMA) – which comes into force in March 2024 – will help the company achieve the ambition of the mobile application store. DMA will allow companies to load their app stores onto iPhones and Android phones by asking Apple and Google to open their systems.
“We want to be able to bring Xbox and content from us and our third-party partners to any screen where someone wants to play,” Spencer told FT.
“Today we can’t do that on mobile devices, but we want to build a world that we believe will arrive where those devices are open.”
Microsoft has had issues with Apple over its Cloud Gaming app. The iPhone maker has asked users to download every game available to play through Microsoft’s cloud offering, including Fortnite. So, Microsoft now requires users to sign in through the Safari browser and follow the instructions, which is not as simple as downloading an app from the App Store.
Given Apple’s restrictions on downloads and in-app purchases, Microsoft’s decision to start building its own game store is not unusual.
Apple and Google did not immediately respond to questions about Microsoft’s ambition to create an alternative app store.
Over the past five years, Microsoft has acquired a ton of game studios, including Ninja Theory, Playground Games, Bethesda-owner Zenimax Media, and most recently Activision Blizzard. The company’s latest acquisition may give it a foothold in the mobile market through a separate store with titles like “Call of Duty Mobile” and “Candy Crush Saga” as well as upcoming releases. Notably, Activision Blizzard has made a lot of money from mobile games. So controlling distribution through its own store will give Microsoft an edge.
The biggest challenge Microsoft faces is closing the deal with Activision Blizzard as regulators in the US, UK and EU review the merger. Last month, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it was launching an antitrust investigation into the deal because it could hurt gamers in the country with “higher prices, less choice”. Microsoft has tried to appease regulators by saying it’s ready for a long-term commitment to making popular games like “Call of Duty” available on competitors’ platforms.
The tech giant recently signed a 10-year deal to bring Xbox games to Nintendo consoles. Additionally, Microsoft has also agreed to route these games to Nvidia’s cloud gaming services, Boosteroid, and Ubitus.
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