Xbox head Phil Spencer responds to latest Activision deal criticism

Robert Collins

It doesn’t look like Microsoft’s acquisition spree will come to an end when/if the Activision Blizzard deal finally closes. At least, not according to the latest comments from Xbox boss Phil Spencer, who recently spoke with CNBC from Japan, where he is currently attending the Tokyo Game Show. When asked if Xbox might “press pause” on further acquisitions Spencer stated,

This is such a competitive market, I don’t think we get to press pause on anything. Tencent is the largest gaming company on the planet today and they continue to heavily invest in gaming content and game creators. Sony is a larger business than we are in gaming today and they continue to invest.

When you look at the investments that we’ve made, it’s a highly, highly competitive market. We strive to be a major player here. We want to deliver great content for our players and we’re going to remain active, whether that’s investing in our internal teams that are already building great games that people know and love, whether it’s building new partnerships.

Spencer added that he wants to “make sure Xbox is at the forefront of innovation and competition.”

Microsoft’s $68 billion purchase of Activision Blizzard is currently facing a second round of investigation from the UK’s regulatory bureau, the Competition and Markets Authority. For its part Sony has applauded this news, saying that giving Microsoft control of Activision Blizzard games like Call of Duty would “have major negative implications for gamers and the future of the gaming industry. Sony added that it appreciated the CMA’s “focus on protecting gamers.”

At the same time, Sony has voiced concerns that even if Call of Duty were allowed to remain on PlayStation, the inclusion of the blockbuster franchise on Xbox Game Pass would stifle competition by giving players the choice of playing CoD on with a Game Pass subscription or paying $70 per game to play on PlayStation.

Spencer’s take on this is that Game Pass is driving competition, not stifling it.

When I look at something like Game Pass specifically, I think it’s the output of competition in our market.

Competition is about driving competitors to innovate, driving competitors to do new things like cloud, like subscriptions, like building new intellectual property. And everything we’ve been focused on is how do we compete effectively, how do we deliver more value to our customers.

In the meantime, Microsoft will have to await the CMA’s decision and other regulatory hurdles, which will likely take several months, but Microsoft execs have said that the acquisition is still on track to close by the end of Microsoft’s fiscal year next July.