Over the last few weeks there’s been a lot of discussion about Microsoft losing its grip on its Xbox business, with people talking about the possibility of it quitting the games industry entirely or stopping making all its games day one on Game Pass. I’m not sure with what seriousness these suggestions were made but it’s obvious why they’ve arisen now, rather than at any other time in the recent past, as Microsoft makes an exhibition of itself in its flailing attempts to buy Activision Blizzard.
I have no idea if the acquisition is going to go through. Since they’re incomparably rich I thought it went without saying that they would get what they want but if nothing else they’re certainly being made to sweat about it. I guess the most likely outcome is that they’re forced to make even more concessions to Sony, potentially making the deal not worth the trouble.
Even if it does go through they’ve wasted the last year hammering it out and their games line-up has clearly suffered as a result. You might say it’s a coincidence, that while all the Activision Blizzard stuff has been going on Microsoft has released no games of note, but the other recurring news story over the last year has been of poor management across multiple Xbox studios. True or not, nothing’s being produced at the moment and I feel Microsoft is beginning to loose its grip on the situation.
Imagine that the Activision Blizzard deal doesn’t go through and Microsoft has wasted all that time, money, and effort on nothing. I would imagine there are going to be some serious questions asked of boss Phil Spencer who, as one reader pointed out this week, has been in charge of Xbox for almost a decade now. While he usually says all the right things he has little to show for his time in charge, except a bunch of new developers that haven’t release anything yet.
Microsoft as a wider company is currently obsessed with ChatGPT and the fact that Bing is finally relevant and being used by people. It’s easy to forget how massive Microsoft is and how gaming is just a tiny part of what they do, and in terms of profits completely irrelevant. If Xbox continues to show little growth, and the gamble on buying Activision Blizzard doesn’t pay off, I think some serious questions are going to be asked, just as they apparently were following the failure of the Xbox One.
My answer to these questions would be simple: sell the Xbox business to Sony. They may be a much smaller company than Microsoft but the Xbox division is well within their ability to afford, especially if it’s being sold off because it’s in trouble.
You may say that Microsoft should sell it to Google or Amazon or some other mega corporation but those are Microsoft’s direct competition, Sony isn’t. As a relatively small player, on a global scale, Sony should be Microsoft’s ally not enemy. The Xbox was created because Microsoft didn’t want Sony to ‘take control of the living room’ but that concept is now completely outdated.
The reason the Xbox was created is no longer relevant and so Microsoft should just do what it usually does in these situations: buy a company with more experience (it tried to buy both Sega and Nintendo) or if that fails team up with them instead. I guess they could buy Sony but I would imagine a failure to acquire Activision Blizzard would quickly put them off that idea, especially with monopoly investigators still breathing down their necks.
Sell the PlayStation business to Sony and they could still keep their finger in the pie, selling them access to their streaming services (they already have a deal to work together on that) and perhaps helping out with other technical aspects, like console and controller design.
Microsoft could continue to research and develop game streaming and sell it to not just Sony but other companies, even Google. They could become the support studio, as it were, for other games companies and interested parties. Maybe they could even retain a developer or two and still make some of their own games – although one of the obvious choices for that is Halo and they’ve made such a hash of that lately they’re probably better off making sure that’s the first thing they sell.
I’m sure Microsoft isn’t interested in the opinion of a nobody on the internet but I would be surprised if something similar to what I’ve said hasn’t floated through the minds of at least a few execs, or at least some shareholders. Xbox isn’t working out at the moment and this idea of Microsoft playing the long game is getting out of hand. If it gets any longer consoles won’t exist anymore and holodecks will be real before they manage to get themselves into gear.
By reader Taylor Moon
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