Google has met with EU Commission officials and is trying to prevent Microsoft from acquiring Activision/Blizzard by replicating Stadia’s model

News Summary:

  • That would draw comparisons between Sony and Google, who are both unquestionably market leaders in video game consoles thanks to their respective PlayStation products. Two industry leaders who are united in opposing a merger.

  • The search engine monopolist still has the right to gripe despite recently losing its appeal against the European Commission’s decision regarding Google Android. However, it is necessary to consider if Google is promoting competition and choice or, more likely, attempting to utilize the regulatory process to safeguard one of its monopolies, namely the distribution of Android games.

Activision’s Call of Duty was referred to by Sony as a “must-have product” and was urged to have its market in the public censored version of its application to Brazil’s antitrust authority (CADE).

Google informed the Brazilian regulator that other games “can be considered similar in terms of quality and genre,” such as Battlefield 2042 (EA), Halo Infinite (Microsoft), Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege (Ubisoft), and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, contrary to Sony’s assertion that Call of Duty plays in a league of its own (Valve). For each of the other vital games from Activision Blizzard, Google also displays several rivals.

Microsoft’s answer claimed that Sony had infamously purchased “blocking rights” to prevent game developers from making their titles available on consoles other than the PlayStation. Google’s filing was made public, although it contained no criticism of the deal. Google’s Brazilian application, however, claimed that companies other than Microsoft and Activision Blizzard are also capable of creating “AAA” games. EA, Ubisoft, Sony, Take Two, and Nintendo were all listed by Google. The reason Google failed to name Epic Games (or Tencent) in this context is because of the ongoing Epic Games v. Google case.

The Google petition cited the Stadia game streaming service, which the company did not provide in Brazil and will be shut down as of this week. Google no longer worries about being able to compete with Microsoft in the game streaming business as a result.

In that Brazilian filing, Google highlighted that several businesses—among them Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass, Nvidia’s GeForce Now, and Amazon Luna—have recently joined the market for digital game distribution, “with varying degrees of success.”

Apple’s insistence that each game must undergo its App Store approval as a distinct offering undoubtedly hurt Google because the iOS Stadia app couldn’t offer actual gameplay, but all Google rivals save Apple Arcade are affected by this, and, according to Twitter, Stadia would have failed anyhow.

Several of Stadia’s flaws were already pointed out by industry experts in 2019 but weren’t (and won’t ever be) fixed. These include (but are not limited to) the fact that the base subscription fee only gave players access to a small number of underwhelming games while Google wanted to charge well over $50 for new, high-quality games like Far Cry 6 or Red Dead Redemption 2. Even those title-specific costs were hidden from players until they signed up. Due to the company’s apparent low marketing investment in Stadia, some also believed that Google’s commitment to the platform was lacking. Due to Google’s eventual lack of tenacity, the skeptics have been proven right.

Google has a track record of giving up on projects. The website KilledByGoogle displays tombstones for about 300 products that Google has already stopped supplying (or has announced that it would discontinue soon, such as Stadia). Even this blog was impacted by Google’s penchant for shutting down initiatives: up until the summer of 2021, readers received daily email digests from this blog via Google’s FeedBurner service. But because Google discontinued providing that email delivery service, FOSS Patents and many other blogs had to switch to a different platform. Every one of those things is forbidden to Google. But every one of them also fully complies with the policy objectives of the European Union regarding the distribution of mobile apps. And every single one of them is in the best interests of independent app developers like me, particularly because I first discovered the limitations of Google and Apple’s app review dictatorship in 2020.

Microsoft needs a critical mass of mobile games to improve the situation in the mobile gaming industry, and Activision Blizzard’s acquisition would achieve that. A meeting between Google and Sony and the European Commission to address how they intend to provide fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory access to their platforms would be much preferable.