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Microsoft Snubs Activision Games as It Vies for Acquisition Approval

Microsoft used softer language to smooth things over with regulators.

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Activision booth at E3. Microsoft is trying to get its $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision-Blizzard approved. 
Claudia Cruz/CNET

Microsoft told regulators in New Zealand that Activision Blizzard doesn't make any "must have" games, dismissive language likely designed to address concerns over the software's giant's proposed $68.7 billion acquisition of the Call of Duty owner.

In a response to the country's Commerce Commission seven weeks ago, Microsoft also said Activision Blizzard's games are "nothing unique," according to Rock Paper Shotgun

A Microsoft spokesperson described the language as a "legal term of art" and not a judgment of Activision Blizzard's games, which include hit titles such as Overwatch, World of Warcraft, Starcraft and Candy Crush. "We love every one of their games and have enormous admiration and respect for the creative talent behind them," the spokesperson said in an email.

Microsoft's choice of words underscores its challenges convincing regulators around the world to let the software company, which also makes the Xbox console, to swallow the video game hit maker. Competitor Sony, which makes the PlayStation console, has raised concerns about the proposed deal with Brazilian regulators, saying that consumers will choose a console based on whether they can play the popular Call of Duty games. 

Xbox head Phil Spencer specified on Twitter earlier this year that it will "honor all existing agreements" to "keep Call of Duty on PlayStation."

Even if Microsoft doesn't make Call of Duty exclusive to its platform, it's possible the company could give Xbox owners certain features and privileges not available on PS5. Game Pass, Microsoft's Netflix-style subscription service, could sway gamers toward Xbox by including the popular shooter in its $10 per month subscription. That could be more attractive than paying $70 for a copy that runs on PlayStation 5. 

Microsoft will continue to publish some multi-platform Activision Blizzard titles for rival platforms, such as the PlayStation 5 and Nintendo Switch, Spencer told Bloomberg earlier this year. 

Daniel Francis, a law professor at NYU and former Federal Trade Commission official, said Microsoft is likely trying to reassure regulators that other platforms will be able to compete even if they lose access to Activision's games. 

"Microsoft will likely be arguing that a rival games console or platform does not need access to, or compatibility with, Activision games to remain competitive," Francis said.