Microsoft is to Sell the Cloud Streaming Rights of Activision-Blizzard Titles to Ubisoft

Windows Activision

It really feels like Microsofts proposed acquisition of Activision-Blizzard is being played out as part of a soap opera.

In a quick summary: Microsoft is trying very hard in order to close its $68.7 Billion deal to bring ABK titles into the Xbox family. However, they have been met with several hurdles along the way. The FTC moved to block the deal, a case which Microsoft eventually won. The UK’s CMA (Competition and Markets Authority) also blocked the deal (making it seemingly dead in the water) in April 2023, citing the cloud gaming market as their main concern.

After Microsoft won their case against the FTC, Microsoft and the CMA agreed to halt Microsoft’s appeal proceedings against the CMA’s original decision to block the deal and agreed to come back to the table for the CMA to consider a new proposal from Microsoft.

It has now been confirmed that Microsost has submitted a new and restructured deal for review. Surprisingly, they have also confirmed that Microsoft will be selling the cloud game streaming rights of Activision-Blizzard titles to Ubisoft – a deal that will include future ABK titles for the next 15 years.

As a result of the agreement with Ubisoft, Microsoft believes its proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard presents a substantially different transaction under UK law than the transaction Microsoft submitted for the CMA’s consideration in 2022. As such, Microsoft today has notified the restructured transaction to the CMA and anticipates that the CMA review processes can be completed before the 90-day extension in its acquisition agreement with Activision Blizzard expires on October 18.

Under the restructured transaction, Microsoft will not be in a position either to release Activision Blizzard games exclusively on its own cloud streaming service—Xbox Cloud Gaming – or to exclusively control the licensing terms of Activision Blizzard games for rival services.

The agreement provides Ubisoft with a unique opportunity to commercialize the distribution of games via cloud streaming. The agreement will enable Ubisoft to innovate and encourage different business models in the licensing and pricing of these games on cloud streaming services worldwide. Ubisoft will compensate Microsoft for the cloud streaming rights to Activision Blizzard’s games through a one-off payment and through a market-based wholesale pricing mechanism, including an option that supports pricing based on usage. It will also give Ubisoft the opportunity to offer Activision Blizzard’s games to cloud gaming services running non-Windows operating systems.

Brad Smith – Vice Chair & President of Microsoft

Thankfully, Brad Smith also confirmed that the structure of the deal with Microsoft also means that they will be able to fulfill their previous agreements with cloud gaming providers such as GeForce NOW and Boosteroid. It will also continue to meet the commitments set by the EU when they previously approved the deal.

The agreement with Ubisoft has been structured so that Microsoft will still acquire the rights needed to honor fully its legal obligations under its commitments to the European Commission, as well as its existing contractual obligations to other cloud game streaming providers, including NVIDIA, Boosteroid, Ubitus, and Nware. Microsoft is engaging closely with the European Commission to support the EC’s assessment of the agreement and confirmation that the commitments remain undisturbed.

Brad Smith – Vice Chair & President of Microsoft

Presumably, Microsoft also retains the rights to release the games on Xcloud as well. This would seem to logically follow given that Microsoft is still able to meet the EU commitment of allowing the games to be freely streamed on any cloud gaming services when a game license is acquired from Microsoft

Games Arriving on Ubisoft+

Ubisoft has since confirmed that ABK titles, such as Call of Duty, will be made available via their Ubisoft + Multi Access membership which spans across PC, Xbox and Amazon Luna. They will also be available on PlayStation through Ubisoft+ Classics. It is also worth mentioning at this point that Ubisoft+ also allows you to stream most of the Ubisoft catalog on GeForce NOW with your Ubisoft+ subscription. We hope given that both Ubisoft and Microsoft have a close relationship with NVIDIA, that this will continue to be the case.

Ubisoft will also be able to license ABK titles to other cloud gaming companies and providers.

Ubisoft today announced the signing of an agreement which will give Ubisoft cloud streaming rights to games like Call of Duty and more, coming into effect upon the completion of Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard. The agreement includes the complete slate of current Activision Blizzard games, as well as all their new titles launching in the 15 years after the closing of Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard. The games will land on Ubisoft+, while also allowing Ubisoft to license them to cloud gaming companies, service providers, and console makers.

With a single subscription to Ubisoft+ Multi Access, players will soon be able to play their favorite Ubisoft and Activision Blizzard games across multiple platforms including PC, Xbox consoles and Amazon Luna, and on the PlayStation platform through Ubisoft+ Classics. The agreement will offer players even greater access to a large library of beloved and classic titles as well as the newest releases, all through cloud streaming.

Daniel O’Connor – Ubisoft

This could potentially allow Microsoft to license the games to other cloud game subscriptions services like Blacknut and Utomik.

So what next? Well the CMA has now opened a new merger investigation with the new proposal from Microsoft, they have set a deadline of October 19th for the completion of Phase of the investigation and then whether to move on to Phase 2. However, the CMA has also made clear that the new proposal from Microsoft does meet their requirements.

Given that Microsoft has now given the CMA the cloud gaming divestiture that they were looking for, it very much looks like this is now a case of when and not if this deal closes.


Lee Reid

Scottish video game enthusiast who is very passionate and a big believer in cloud gaming. Also loves to chat about video games.

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