Every new development in the Sony versus Microsoft spat over Microsoft’s pending acquisition of Activision Blizzard makes me roll my eyes a little harder. Previously, I’ve addressed Jim Ryan’s increasingly whiny comments about the situation, which sound like sour grapes coming from the far and away clear gaming industry market leader.
But Microsoft isn’t much better, either. This week, it’s not Xbox’s Phil Spencer punching back, but the CEO of Microsoft itself, Satya Nadella, who in an interview with Bloomberg referenced the fact that Sony had also made big acquisitions in the gaming space.
“So if this is about competition, let us have competition.”
I find this specific quote deeply ironic given that the entire debate being had here is that Microsoft’s size, making an acquisition of this scale, is the company being anti-competitive in a way that its chief rival, Sony, cannot match.
This has always been the core of the Microsoft acquisition debate. Should a tech company this large be able to freely acquire such a massive chunk of the industry for a price so high its competition can’t match it? While the ultimate answer seems likely to be yes, as like Nadella, I also imagine this ends with the Activision deal getting approved, the “competition” line doesn’t really work in context.
Why not? I mean, just look at the sense of scale we’re talking about.
Sony, while a big company with electronics, film, TV and gaming divisions, has an $89.24 billion market cap. Its recent “big” gaming purchase Nadella is referencing is its acquisition of Bungie for $3.6 billion, which came with the clear stipulation that none of Bungie’s games would become exclusive to PlayStation.
Microsoft, in contrast, is a technological megacorp that’s one of the largest on earth, with a $1.8 trillion market cap, 20x the size of Sony. Its “large” gaming purchase before this was Bethesda, for $7.5 billion which is resulting in a lot of Microsoft exclusive games from that publisher and its developers. But the Activision Blizzard deal is nearly 10x that at $68.7 billion. I don’t know how you can taunt Sony with a straight face by saying “let us have competition” when you’re buying a publisher that costs nearly as much as Sony itself is worth.
Again, this is not the whole debate. Microsoft is right that Sony and Nintendo are outperforming them in the gaming industry despite being smaller companies, so pure size is not everything. We also have outsiders like Amazon failing to meaningfully break into the industry despite several attempts. So it’s complicated.
But “let us have competition”? I’m not sure that’s the argument you want to make in this case that centers of the concept of the sheer size of this deal leading to anti-competitiveness in the industry, but you do you, Nadella.
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