According to Microsoft’s lawyers, mobile was the main impetus for the $68.7 billion Activision-Blizzard acquisition. Now Microsoft wants to make its own storefront to ensure it maximizes returns for that investment…but the company may not be able to do it alone.
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Microsoft is seeking partners to help realize its ambitious vision for a Universal Store. This plan would see games being sold across consoles, PC, and mobile, the last being a critical part of the Activision-Blizzard buyout and a front where Microsoft has traditionally been weak in. In order to pull this off and ensure the mobile fork of the Universal Store doesn’t just peter out, Microsoft wants to team up with other developers and publishers to challenge Google’s and Apple’s mobile stores.
“It’s an important part of our strategy and something we are actively working on today not only alone, but talking to other partners who’d also like to see more choice for how they can monetize on the phone,” Xbox gaming CEO Phil Spencer said at the CCXP23 event in Brazil.
As for a timeframe, Spencer seems confident the mobile store could go live sooner than later: “I don’t think this is multiple years away, I think this is sooner than that.”
The key to securing partners could lie in a more favorable revenue split for first adopters to the store.
Epic Games pursued this strategy with its Epic Games Store, offering developers a 88-12 revenue split as opposed to the more normalized 70-30 split, with platform-holders like Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft, Valve, Apple, and Google all taking 30% of revenues generated from game sales and in-game purchases.
It was recently revealed that Google operated its Play Store at a 70% margin in 2021, all despite not actually making any of its own video games since the closure of Stadia.
Elsewhere in the recent Epic v Google court case, it was also revealed that in 2019, Epic Games, Supercell, and pre-merger Activision were all mulling over creating a kind of consortium to launch their own app store. It sounds like Microsoft’s plan is an extension of this original idea.
As per The Verge, the consortium would have delivered “one single mobile games store focused on distribution of mobile games (“STEAM of Mobile” concept), including a single payment system.”
It remains to be seen how expansive Microsoft’s alliance pursuit will go, and whether or not the company will focus more on traditional console-oriented publishers that have weaker presences in mobile, such as Ubisoft, or even try to secure deals with heavy-hitters like Take-Two’s Zynga. It’s also possible Microsoft will pursue more traditional mobile-oriented devs like Supercell.