Microsoft is planning to launch its own app store for mobile games as a third-party rival to Apple and Google’s phone software storefronts. It could happen as soon as next year, so long as Microsoft’s $68.7 billion acquisition of gaming giant Activision Blizzard is approved.
Apple and Google will be mandated to open up their iOS and Android platforms to third-party app stores by March 2024, when the European Union’s Digital Markets Act comes into effect. That’s conceivably when Microsoft will be able to launch its own mobile app store, CEO of Microsoft Gaming Phil Spencer told Financial Times in an interview.
“We want to be in a position to offer Xbox and content from both us and our third-party partners across any screen where somebody would want to play,” Spencer told Financial Times. “Today, we can’t do that on mobile devices but we want to build towards a world that we think will be coming where those devices are opened up.”
But the plans for a Microsoft app store are linked to Microsoft’s acquisition of games publisher Activision Blizzard, which regulators in the US and Europe have worried would result in less competition among big gaming companies — and lead gamers to get shut out of games. Recent opposition has focused on whether the Call of Duty franchise would only come out on Microsoft’s Xbox consoles and PC, though Microsoft has assured that it will come out on other gaming platforms for years to come.
Spencer defended the acquisition, saying the merger would lead to increased competition in the mobile software space, which is virtually nonexistent with Apple and Google’s hold on their platforms, as it’s very difficult to download software outside of their App Store and Google Play Store, respectively. Microsoft wants a place for users to download its roster of games, which would include popular mobile titles like Call of Duty Mobile, Candy Crush and Diablo Immortal should the acquisition be approved.
Evidence of an Xbox mobile store appeared in October as Microsoft filed documents with the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority, the UK’s regulators looking into the Activision Blizzard acquisition.