British regulator softens stance on Microsoft-Activision deal competition concerns
Shares of Activision Blizzard surged Friday, after the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority narrowed the scope of its investigation into Microsoft‘s takeover of the games publisher.
The development marks a partial win for Microsoft, as it pursues an expansion of its video game business. The Redmond, Washington-based technology giant has deepened its focus on gaming through blockbuster acquisitions, such as its purchase of ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Bethesda Softworks.
In February, the CMA published provisional findings from its probe into the takeover, stating at the time that the transaction may result in higher prices, fewer choices and less innovation. Among its concerns, the regulator flagged that the deal would cause a substantial lessening of competition in the console gaming market.
Since then, the regulator has received a “significant amount” of feedback from various industry participants on the deal. With this new evidence, the CMA now says it no longer believes the transaction will hamper competition in console games.
“Having considered the additional evidence provided, we have now provisionally concluded that the merger will not result in a substantial lessening of competition in console gaming services because the cost to Microsoft of withholding Call of Duty from PlayStation would outweigh any gains from taking such action,” Martin Coleman, chair of the independent panel of experts conducting the CMA investigation, said in a statement Friday.
“Our provisional view that this deal raises concerns in the cloud gaming market is not affected by today’s announcement. Our investigation remains on course for completion by the end of April.”
Shares of Activision Blizzard surged more than 6% in U.S. premarket trading. Microsoft shares declined slightly amid a broad market slump.
‘Call of Duty’ distribution in focus
The CMA announcement comes after the U.S. technology giant has also won support from some companies that were against the deal, or sitting on the fence.
One of the major concerns from Microsoft’s competitors was that the transaction would block distribution access to Activision’s crown jewel franchise — “Call of Duty.” Last month, Microsoft said it signed a “binding 10-year legal agreement” to bring Call of Duty to Nintendo players on the same day as Microsoft’s Xbox, “with full feature and content parity.”
Additionally, Microsoft signed a deal with Nvidia to bring its Xbox games to Nvidia’s GeForce Now cloud gaming service. Microsoft said it would also bring the Activision games library to Nvidia’s service, if the acquisition closes. Nvidia was reportedly against Microsoft’s Activision takeover.
But Microsoft has yet to bring onside its biggest rival, Sony, which owns the PlayStation console. Microsoft President Brad Smith told CNBC last month that the company is offering Sony the same agreement as it did Nintendo — to make Call of Duty available on PlayStation at the same time as on Xbox, with the same features. Sony still opposes the deal.
“We appreciate the CMA’s rigorous and thorough evaluation of the evidence and welcome its updated provisional findings,” a Microsoft spokesperson told CNBC via email.
“This deal will provide more players with more choice in how they play Call of Duty and their favorite games. We look forward to working with the CMA to resolve any outstanding concerns.”
An Activision spokesperson told CNBC that the CMA’s updated provisional findings “show an improved understanding of the console gaming market and demonstrate a commitment to supporting players and competition.”
“Sony’s campaign to protect its dominance by blocking our merger can’t overcome the facts, and Microsoft has already presented effective and enforceable remedies to address each of the CMA’s remaining concerns. We know this deal will benefit competition, innovation, and consumers in the UK.”
Microsoft is not completely off the hook.
The CMA says it still has reservations about the deal as it pertains to cloud gaming, where delivery of games content is handled from remote servers rather than from a device’s internal memory. Notably, cloud gaming is still in its infancy and not yet a mass-market technology.
In its provisional conclusions, the CMA suggested that Microsoft may need to divest part or all of Activision — or its CoD franchise alone — to resolve its concerns. The CMA did not provide an update as to whether it believes this remains a potential resolution.
The watchdog will make its final decision on April 26.
Microsoft also still faces uncertainty from regulators in the U.S. and European Union. Smith travelled to Brussels last month to meet with EU regulators. In the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission filed an antitrust case against Microsoft attempting to block the Activision deal.
Some major companies retain reservations about the acquisition, which includes Google parent Alphabet, according to Bloomberg.
– CNBC’s Steve Kovach contributed to this report
Motorola Says iPhone Owners Are Switching to Get Foldable Phones – CNET
From Samsung to Motorola and Google, just about every major Android phone maker has released a foldable phone. But there’s one big, non-Android outlier: Apple. And according to Motorola, that’s prompting some iPhone users to make the switch.
Specifically, Motorola has seen 20% of new Razr users coming from Apple products. That data point is from 2021 following the launch of the previous-generation Razr.
“This is definitely the family that we have the most amount of iPhone users switching to us,” Allison Yi, Motorola’s head of North America product operations, said to CNET ahead of the company’s Razr Plus launch.
Foldable phones still account for a fragment of the global smartphone market, but the category is growing quickly as tech giants search for the next major evolution of the mobile phone. Market research firm International Data Corporation estimates that worldwide shipments of foldables will increase more than 50% in 2023 compared to 2022. Motorola’s Razr line faces the most competition from Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip series, although Samsung hasn’t broken out its sales numbers to specify its percentage of iPhone converts.
This year is shaping up to be a milestone moment for foldables with the arrival of newcomers including Google and OnePlus, giving Motorola and other early entrants like Samsung more competition. Apple, however, is still noticeably absent from the foldable phone race, and that isn’t likely to change anytime too soon.
‘Diablo 4’ PS5 Players Hit With ‘Unable To Find A Valid License’ Error, Blizzard Comments – Forbes
I’ll be honest, my jaw was hanging open a bit when I logged into Diablo 4 a minute after 7 PM ET, got a 4 minute queue which was…actually over in four minutes. I got in, created my Barbarian and I’m already level 4, pausing only to write this article. No wild wait times, no errors, no disconnects (yet).
But I’m on PC. PS5 players? They’re no so lucky.
At the time of this writing, there is a widespread error that says “Unable to find a valid license for Diablo IV (Code 315306).” This is happening, obviously, to people who very much have indeed purchased the game, so something is going wrong here with an interaction between Blizzard and PlayStation it seems.
However, it may be Blizzard and console more broadly. I have heard of at least some Xbox players getting this error message as well, but overall players seem to be having more success with Microsoft. The PS5 error appears to be more widespread, for whatever reason.
Blizzard has indeed acknowledged the issue, via its community manager and a forum post here. They do say PlayStation specifically, even if a few Xbox folks are hitting it. The message just says:
“We are seeing reports regarding PlayStation users experiencing Invalid License errors. The team is looking into this right now and will update once we have more information.”
If you’ve come here for advice on a fix, I’m sorry I can’t help you yet, as there does not appear to be one. I would avoid drastic steps like reinstalling the 80 GB game or anything, as that is probably going to be unnecessary and not fix the problem anyway. But yes, there is a widespread problem, you are not alone.
Naturally, many Diablo players were concerned we could have another Error 37 issue on our hands, the old error code that endlessly crippled Diablo 3 at launch. It…doesn’t seem likely that we’re headed into something that bad. Given that this is a console-specific issues, it means that Blizzard’s servers are not totally melting down as a whole. This time around they also did a “server slam” and this is early access launch which are mitigating factors. But that’s cold comfort to PS players who can’t play yet because of the “no valid license” error.
As soon as there’s a new update on the situation I will post it here. Stay tuned, and hopefully this will be resolved soon.
Update: It seems this may be a PS-wide issue, as there are reports of many games returning the license error right now, not just Diablo 4. Bad coincidence or…sparked by a flood of Diablo logons? Not clear yet.
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Pick up my sci-fi novels the Herokiller series and The Earthborn Trilogy.
Ahead of Apple's big VR debut, Mark Zuckerberg unveils Meta Quest 3 mixed-reality headset – Economic Times
Just days before Apple‘s big annual conference, WWDC 2023, Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday announced brand new next-generation virtual and mixed reality headset, Meta Quest 3.
The new virtual reality headset, which features higher resolution and stronger performance, will launch later this year.
The Meta Quest 3 comes with Meta’s breakthrough Reality technology and a slimmer, more comfortable form factor. The headset will start shipping in all countries where Meta Quest is currently supported.
The tech giant said that it will share more details on the product on September 27 at Meta Connect. The Meta Quest headset starts at $499.99 (Rs 41,159 approximately) for the 128GB variant.
“Meta Quest 3 is the supercharged all-in-one headset you’ve been waiting for — no wires required,” the company said.
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While making the announcement, Meta claimed that Quest 3 is the company’s highest resolution display and pancake optics that will make content look better than before. Quest 3 is also Meta’s first headset to feature a next-generation Snapdragon chipset which has been developed in collaboration with Qualcomm Technologies to give power to those extra pixels.”That next-gen Snapdragon chipset delivers more than twice the graphical performance as the previous generation Snapdragon GPU in Quest 2 — meaning you’ll get smoother performance and incredibly crisp details in immersive games,” Meta said.
Zuckerberg-led tech giant further claimed that the brand new headset are the company’s best-in-class Meta Reality technology that will allow users to seamlessly blend the physical world with the virtual one.
“These new experiences go beyond today’s mixed reality by intelligently understanding and responding to objects in your physical space and allowing you to navigate that space in natural, intuitive ways that were nearly impossible before,” the company said.
The upcoming headset is compatible with Meta Quest 2 catalog of over 500 VR games, apps and experiences, whereas Meta has more exciting new VR and MR titles lined up for launch.
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