The UK CMA is in the middle of an extremely thorough investigation of the deal between Microsoft and Activision Blizzard. As part of its latest efforts, the antitrust watchdog sought the opinion of UK-based video game developers on the merger.
Surprisingly enough, the responses were made public recently and they tell a different story to what you might be constantly reading in the news.
Of the six companies, only 4J Studios was named in the new report. The game developer is based out of Dundee, Scotland, and is best known for developing the console ports of Minecraft.
Chris van der Kuyl, 4J’s chairman and co-founder shared that the studio has previously worked with Microsoft and Mojang before it was acquired by the tech giant.
"During that period, which lasted several years, Microsoft has honoured every element of the agreements that they inherited and also extended our relationship significantly to cover new formats, like Nintendo Switch, as well as many other content enhancements," van der Kuyl said to the UK CMA.
"We believe that consumers’ tastes and preferences in the video game space cut across a broad array of games and a wide variety of genres and platforms," the second studio anonymously stated. "As such, we do not believe that any title can be considered a ‘must have’ in the interactive entertainment market. In the context of this dynamic, and considering Microsoft’s stated commitment to make certain games available on all platforms, we do not believe the proposed transaction will negatively impact consumers."
The third studio is an indie developer with experience working with Sony, Microsoft, and Activision. The studio reveals that Microsoft has honored its contracts and obligations for 25 years. The developer also notes that the massive Chinese media conglomerate Tencent has invested in Activision.
"If Microsoft is prevented from acquiring Activision, would the UK consumers be better served if they were acquired by Tencent instead?" the studio asked. The developer implies that Tencent would not be subject to western regulations should it attempt to acquire the publisher.
The fourth studio is from a developer and publisher of AAA titles with publishing experience on all major consoles.
"We do not, however, expect any significant impact of the merger on our company nor distribution of our own products," the developer stated. "In particular, we do not expect the Merger to pose any risks to the distribution of our own games on Xbox or other consoles."
The fifth and final response came from a business that released games on both the Xbox and PlayStation. It claimed that "on PlayStation, we’ve found our sales growing stagnant with each release."
"This is mainly due to the fact that, despite PlayStation having the lion’s share of player numbers and console sales, that share is mainly provided to larger titles from huge publishing labels, and/or developers and publishers who are willing to spend lots of money on paid marketing within the PlayStation console," the company explained. "On Xbox, the opposite has come true over the last several years. There are numerous means of players finding your game on Xbox, including in special sections on the store, and through the Xbox Game Pass service."
The company adds, "The acquisition will not all of a sudden make Xbox the dominant platform. It’s far more likely that it may help to create a more level playing field between Xbox and PlayStation which, at this point in time, is sorely needed. PlayStation needs better competition, to force the platform to up its game, and this will surely help to do that."
The final game developer responded to the UK CMA saying that it "honestly found the arguments against this acquisition to be slightly exaggerated and out of proportion."
The game maker adds, "We are worried that actual real competition and more innovative consumer friendly initiatives could be potentially hindered by blocking this, by potential market leaders/competitors, who might not be ready or might believe in a different strategy, or just not compelled to change their status quo on the market."
It's quite interesting these studios have nothing but positive things to say to the antitrust regulators about the deal. The positive responses paint a different picture from what Sony has said over the course of several months. However, these statements are made from the viewpoint of a game developer and not from a gamer or consumer, which is who regulatory bodies are trying to protect.
While these are just opinions, the UK CMA is considering all angles before making a final decision on the matter. All these responses may turn the tide of this investigation in Microsoft's favor.
Sony has not yet commented on the posted replies from these independent gaming companies. On the other hand, the UK's competition watchdog will have until April 26 to finalize its decision on the landmark deal.