BRUSSELS — Microsoft said Tuesday it will bring its Xbox PC games to Nvidia’s cloud gaming service, after the chipmaker had reportedly expressed opposition to a major Microsoft gaming deal.
The announcement comes after Microsoft President Brad Smith met with European Union officials on Tuesday in a bid to convince them that its planned $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard will be good for competition.
Microsoft is offering the olive branch to stop the takeover from being blocked and thereby expand its gaming unit, which represents 9% of total revenue. While sales of Microsoft’s Xbox consoles are slowing down, the company has been drawing on its cash pile to expand the collection of games it can sell and allow people to play through its cloud data centers.
Microsoft President Brad Smith said at a press conference that, effective immediately, its Xbox games will be available on Nvidia’s GeForce Now cloud games service. Smith said if the Activision deal closes, it will bring all Activision Blizzard titles to GeForce Now.
Nvidia is now on board with Microsoft’s pending deal for regulatory purposes, the two companies said in a joint statement confirming the two companies 10-year deal. In January Bloomberg reported that Nvidia had gone to the FTC with complaints about the Activision deal, as did Google parent Alphabet.
“Combining the incredibly rich catalog of Xbox first party games with GeForce Now’s high-performance streaming capabilities will propel cloud gaming into a mainstream offering that appeals to gamers at all levels of interest and experience,” Jeff Fisher, Nvidia’s senior vice president for GeForce, was quoted as saying. “Through this partnership, more of the world’s most popular titles will now be available from the cloud with just a click, playable by millions more gamers.”
“The European Commission asked for our views in the course of their inquiries into this issue. We will continue to cooperate in any processes, when requested, to ensure all views are considered,” a Google spokesperson told CNBC in an email.
Microsoft proposed its Activision Blizzard acquisition in January 2022, but since the buyer has faced pushback from regulators in the U.S., European Union and U.K.
In November, the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, opened an in-depth investigation into the deal citing concerns that it could reduce competition in the video games market.
Activision Blizzard is the company behind popular game franchise Call of Duty. The EU commission said last year it is concerned that Microsoft could block access to the game on other platforms if the deal goes through.
The commission is also concerned that it could give Microsoft an unfair edge in the nascent area of cloud gaming. Microsoft has a service called Game Pass through which it charges gamers $9.99 per month to access a library of games. The Activision takeover would add some high-profile titles to Game Pass.
Nvidia’s GeForce Now has over 25 million members, while Microsoft said last year that 25 million people subscribe to Game Pass. Nvidia offers free and paid GeForce Now tiers, although high resolution is only available to those who pay. Members of GeForce Now will be able to stream through the cloud the games they buy through Microsoft’s app store, along with games listed in Epic Games and Steam’s app stores.
In December, Microsoft said it had “entered into a 10-year commitment” to bring Call of Duty to Nintendo when the Activision acquisition closes. The announcement was seen as a move to assuage regulators’ antitrust concerns. On Tuesday, Smith tweeted that the two signs have now signed a “binding 10-year legal agreement” to bring Call of Duty to Nintendo players on the same day as Microsoft’s Xbox, “with full feature and content parity.”
Smith on Tuesday led a delegation that included Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer and Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick, Reuters reported, citing a European Commission document that the news agency had seen. Sony’s gaming chief Jim Ryan was also in attendance, Reuters added. Sony, Microsoft’s biggest rival, opposes the Activision takeover.
Sony was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.
It’s not only European regulators that have concerns about the deal.
The U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said this month that the takeover raises competition concerns and may result in higher prices, fewer choices and less innovation. The regulator said it could move to block the deal.
In December, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed an antitrust case against Microsoft attempting to block the Activision deal.
Microsoft has maintained that its takeover of Activision Blizzard would not harm competition in video gaming and instead increase competition against large players like Sony and Chinese giant Tencent.
Microsoft has remained behind the likes of Sony and Nintendo in the video-gaming business. Microsoft’s Xbox consoles have lagged Sony’s PlayStation 5 and Nintendo’s Switch. Sony and Nintendo’s popularity has come from its large number of successful first-party games. Microsoft is looking to boost its games library with the Activision acquisition.
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