Microsoft Plans to Launch Its Own Mobile Games App Store

If it overcomes regulatory hurdles and completes its $75 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard, Microsoft plans to launch a mobile app store for games to challenge Apple and Google, according to Phil Spencer, CEO of Microsoft Games. The EU’s Digital Markets Act mandates that the makers of Android devices and iPhones must make their mobile platforms accessible to app stores by third parties, with enforcement beginning in March 2024. That means Microsoft could open a mobile app store as soon as next year, adapting the company’s Xbox and Game Pass apps to accommodate sales to mobile devices.

The major hurdle would be an inventory of mobile games to sell, something Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard purchase would take care of. Although the Federal Trade Commission has sued to block the acquisition, and the European Commission has shared its concerns in a “formal warning,” by putting Microsoft in a challenger role, the mobile gaming strategy seems to bode well for the company’s deal closing plans.

Earlier this month, Reuters reported Microsoft was poised to secure EU antitrust approval.

“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 on the eve of the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, adding “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.”

Spencer called the Digital Markets Act “a huge opportunity.” It is expected that DMA implementation will see Apple and Google designated “gatekeepers,” resulting in changes to the rules governing how apps are distributed across iPhones and Android devices. It is speculated that Google and Apple would appeal that classification, and enforcement would likely be delayed beyond the March trigger date while the challenges played out.

“Microsoft first hinted at a ‘next-generation store’ early last year, just a month after the company announced its proposed Activision Blizzard acquisition,” says The Verge, adding that the company “is also building a broader Xbox mobile platform,” having already begun supporting Xbox Cloud Gaming on Valve’s Steam Deck and Logitech and Razer for their cloud-based handhelds.

An Xbox mobile store would “also allow developers to run their own app stores within Microsoft’s Xbox mobile platform,” The Verge notes.

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