As part of its ongoing, lawsuit-adjacent investigation, the US Federal Trade Commission has called on Microsoft to explain its "next generation gaming ecosystem," which is a standout eyebrow-raiser in a sea of legal jargon.
This comes from a new document request (technically a motion to compel) from the FTC which was released (opens in new tab) earlier this week. The FTC has submitted an order for Microsoft and Activision Blizzard to share information related to a few key points of the big Xbox Activision deal – one point apparently being Microsoft's vision for its entire gaming arm.
Specifically, the FTC "requests documents related to [redacted], the code name for Microsoft’s next generation gaming ecosystem. [Redacted] is part of Microsoft’s forward-looking strategy for its console, subscription, and cloud gaming businesses – all markets in which Complaint Counsel alleges harm."
Let's get a few things straight. Is the FTC asking about the Xbox Series X 2, for lack of a better name for the de facto NextBox? No. In fact, I can't even definitively say how much of "Microsoft’s next generation gaming ecosystem" refers to the platform we know today. After all, I don't know the FTC style guide ruling for new-gen versus next-gen. And Microsoft has been building an increasingly broad platform through Xbox Game Pass and cloud gaming, to say nothing of about a million newly minted partnerships with streaming services.
That said, the verbiage used here, not to mention the redacted code name, suggests this ecosystem is still in planning, or at least still evolving. And with the very nature of traditional console cycles still uncertain – Microsoft president Brad Smith recently remarked that "who knows" where gaming will be in a decade – the direction of Microsoft's "ecosystem" is mighty interesting indeed. Where is Xbox steering this ship? Please, do tell.
The same motion also requests documents regarding Microsoft's acquisition of ZeniMax and, through it, Bethesda, as the deal comes up in another request for info on cross-play. The FTC asserts that "Microsoft made a similar argument when it acquired ZeniMax, but subsequently decided to take newly-acquired ZeniMax titles exclusive," stopping just short of asking 'Why isn't Starfield on PlayStation?'
Additionally, the FTC wants to know more about "making Activision content available on competing products and services after the Proposed Transaction closes," another major sticking point among competition regulators. It will be mighty interesting to see what Microsoft is forced to disclose – the FTC repeatedly notes that it "has refused any approach that
would require it to produce new responsive documents" – and what all is made public.
Google and Nvidia previously expressed "concern' to the FTC over Microsoft buying Activision Blizzard, but Nvidia has since signed a 10-year deal to put Xbox and Activision games on GeForce Now.