Microsoft is creating a dedicated mobile games platform, which could bring big-name games to an exclusive smartphone store and rival the likes of the App Store and Google Play on the gaming front.
As reported by The Verge (opens in new tab), Microsoft was recently asked to outline its intentions to acquire Activision Blizzard to the U.K.’s Competition and Marketing Authority (CMA). In response, Microsoft (opens in new tab) not only explained its “commitment to a future for gaming that expands beyond consoles," but also its ambitions to create a Xbox Mobile Platform.
Microsoft said this would let it make "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" It added that by "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."
As Microsoft mentioned, to rival the likes of Apple's App Store and the Google Play store, both of which are pretty much gaming platforms in their own right, it would need to attract and host big-names games. It's here where the Activision Blizzard acquisition could come into play.
Candy Crush and Call of Duty could spearhead the Xbox Mobile Platform
Two of the world’s most popular mobile game franchises Candy Crush and Call of Duty: Mobile are owned by Activision Blizzard. By buying Activision Blizzard, Microsoft could not only get access to these mobile game, but also potentially exclude them from the App Store and Play store, thereby attracting people to the Xbox Mobile Platform.
“The transaction gives Microsoft a meaningful presence in mobile gaming. Mobile gaming 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 in the first half of 2022," said Microsoft in the CMA response.
So what does this mean for you? Well, so far these plans appear to be at the early stages. But it could mean, and we're speculating here, that in the future access to some of the most popular mobile games will require using a dedicated Xbox store on smartphone and tablets. It could also see some Xbox games, likely those that don't require a lot of graphics power, ported onto smartphones and accessed via this Xbox store. For example, we could see Gears Tactics, Halo Wars, or the likes of the original Fable brought over to mobile gaming.
There are hurdles to this ambition, most notably Apple doesn't let third-party app stores on iOS. So Microsoft could find it a challenge to bring the Xbox Mobile Platform to iPhones.
But one boon may be how Microsoft could more easily bring Fortnite back to Android, and perhaps iOS if Apple, Microsoft and Epic can reach an agreement. This could happen as after Epic Games took Apple to court, and Microsoft threw its support behind Epic, ending with Fortnite on Xbox Game Pass and allowing access to it via Xbox Cloud Gaming. So with such prior partnerships, we could see Fortnite then be offered as a direct download via the Xbox Mobile Platform.
Regardless of whether Microsoft's mobile gaming ambitions come to fruition, the Redmond company is still dedicated to on-the-move and handheld gaming, as seen by the relatively rapid support of Xbox Game Pass on the Steam Deck.