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Microsoft’s Activison Blizzard Acquisition: The Complete Timeline of the News So Far

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It’s been a little over a year since Microsoft announced its intention to acquire Activision Blizzard. Since then, what looked to be another blockbuster acquisition appears far more uncertain as regulators in multiple countries scrutinize a deal that could potentially upend the video game industry.

While legal experts have maintained that the Activision Blizzard acquisition doesn’t constitute a monopoly (more on that later), it still marks a seismic shift in the video game landscape – and warrants an appropriate level of examination. But how did another day in the increasing mergers-focused industry become such a regulatory landmine? Read on for a full breakdown of how we got here.

Microsoft Acquires Activision Blizzard: The Story So Far

The acquisition, which is set to close in 2023, has major implications for the games industry encompassing one of gaming’s biggest console makers and some of gaming’s biggest franchises including Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, and Overwatch.

January 18, 2022 – Microsoft Announces It Will Acquire Activision Blizzard.

Xbox announced via its official Xbox Wire site that it would acquire Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion. All Activision Blizzard studios which include Blizzard but also Call of Duty developers like Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer would report to Xbox head Phil Spencer. The main thrust of the deal is that Xbox announced it would work to bring as many Activision Blizzard games as it can into the Xbox Game Pass subscription service.

The deal was not immediate and Xbox did not provide a timeline for when the acquisition would be completed, but the news easily eclipsed Xbox’s last major acquisition, a purchase of ZeniMax Media in 2020, for what seems now like a paltry $7.5 billion.

April 1, 2022 – U.S. Senators Raise Concerns Over Activision Blizzard Acquisition

Several months after the announcement of the acquisition, four United States senators including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Sheldon Whitehouse sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission. This letter outlined concerns that the deal could disenfranchise current Activision Blizzard employees following allegations of sexual misconduct and other hostile workplace practices.

August 24, 2022 – Xbox Launches Website Outlining Benefits of the Acquisition

To spell out the benefits of Xbox’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard to the public, Microsoft launched a website that highlighted its “vision for gaming,” and the positives of what could become the biggest deal in video game history.

According to Xbox, the acquisition will mean more games on more devices, more choices for how to purchase games, and variety for mobile gamers. Xbox also claims that developers will have easier access to customers, a fairer marketplace, and greater flexibility in payment systems.

September 1, 2022 – Call of Duty Will Still Launch on PlayStation on the Same Day, Also Game Pass

Spencer made a point to say that new Call of Duty games would still be released on PlayStation on the same day as it launches elsewhere, even if the goal is to eventually debut new Call of Duty, as well as Overwatch and Diablo, on Xbox Game Pass.

In another blog post, Spencer confirmed that PlayStation gamers will receive the new Call of Duty on the same launch day as any other platform, including presumably Xbox Game Pass where first-party Xbox games are released day-and-date as retail.

September 7, 2022 – PlayStation’s Jim Ryan Calls Xbox’s Call of Duty Promise ‘Inadequate on Many Levels’

The first of a series of responses, PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan called the promise of bringing Call of Duty to PlayStation after the acquisition “inadequate.”

In a statement to Gamesindustry.biz, Ryan said that the publicly stated promise to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation for three years after the current agreement is not appealing to PlayStation. “After almost 20 years of Call of Duty on PlayStation, their proposal was inadequate on many levels and failed to take account of the impact on our gamers.”

October 12, 2022 – Following Concerns Raised by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority, Xbox Says PlayStation Is Too Big to Fail

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) raised concerns over Xbox’s planned acquisition of Activision Blizzard. In response, Xbox said the concerns were unsupported and claimed PlayStation was too big to fail.

“The suggestion that the incumbent market leader, with clear and enduring market power, could be foreclosed by the third largest provider as a result of losing access to one title is not credible,” Xbox said in a statement. In addition, Xbox said that even if every Call of Duty player on PlayStation switched to Xbox, “the PlayStation gamer base remaining would be significantly larger than Xbox.”

October 31, 2022 – Phil Spencer: Call of Duty Will Continue to Ship on PlayStation ‘As Long as There’s a PlayStation to Ship To’

In ongoing commitments to keeping Call of Duty multiplatform, Phil Spencer said the intent was not to take Call of Duty away from PlayStation gamers and that as long as there is a PlayStation to ship to, Xbox will ship Call of Duty to Sony’s console.

Speaking on the Same Brain YouTube channel, Spencer cited Minecraft, a game that Xbox continued to ship to other platforms even after acquiring developer Mojang.

November 11, 2022 – Xbox Offers PlayStation a 10-year Deal to Keep Call of Duty on the Platform

It was reported by The New York Times that Xbox offered Sony a 10-year deal to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation. While PlayStation did not comment on the offer, this marks a seven-year increase over the current three-year deal in place to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation.

This deal will also come to mirror a similar arrangement made with Nintendo that we will discuss in more detail further down.

December 8, 2022 – The Federal Trade Commission Sues to Block Xbox’s Activision Blizzard Acquisition

In the largest rebuke yet, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sued to block Xbox’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard.

In a press release, the FTC said that Xbox could “harm competition in high-performance gaming consoles and subscription services by denying or ‘degrading’ rivals’ access to its popular content.” The FTC cited the acquisition of ZeniMax Media as one example of this, and how games like Redfall and Starfield will not be appearing on rival consoles.

In an internal memo, current Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick told employees that while the lawsuit “sounds alarming,” the expectation is that the deal will proceed as planned.

December 12, 2022 – Phil Spencer Says Sony Wants to Grow ‘By Making Xbox Smaller’

In a slight departure of tone, Spencer struck back at PlayStation’s attempts to block the company’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard by saying PlayStation wants to “protect their dominance” by “making Xbox smaller.”

Spencer appeared on the Second Request podcast calling Sony the only “major opposer” to the deal. “They have a very different view of the industry than we do. They don’t ship their games day and date on PC, [and] they don’t put their games in the subscription when they launch their games,” he said.

While Spencer previously spent months talking about how Call of Duty would remain on PlayStation, this was met with Jim Ryan calling these overtures “inadequate.” By hitting back on PlayStation’s dominance, Spencer marked a change in tone as the battle over the acquisition continued to intensify.

January 5, 2023 – UK CMA Extends Investigation into Xbox’s Acquisition of Activision Blizzard

Citing the complexity of the case, the CMA announced it would extend its investigation into the acquisition by up to eight weeks to process the amount of evidence it has gathered. Plus, the CMA must also go through the responses it acquired from the public after reaching out for opinions about the acquisition.

The extension means that the final submission date for the CMA’s report on whether Xbox’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard is negative for the industry is now April 26 instead of its original deadline of March 1. However, the CMA also said the report could be completed anytime before that date.

January 30, 2023 – The Last of Us’ Success on HBO Proves Sony’s Merger Opposition Is Baseless

While not an official statement, Activision Blizzard CCO Lulu Cheng Meservey tweeted at the official FTC Twitter account citing the success of HBO’s adaptation of Sony’s The Last of Us on HBO as proof that Sony’s opposition to the acquisition is baseless.

“Sony has an unrivaled warchest of IP, not just in gaming but TV, movies, and music — which can be developed into games, or can market existing games,” Meservey said. “It’s no wonder they also continue to dominate as the market leader for consoles. In gaming, Sony is ‘the first of us’ – and they will be just fine without the FTC’s protection.”

Meservey cited the record-breaking viewership for HBO’s The Last of Us, which is also produced by PlayStation Productions and Sony Pictures Television, as examples of Sony’s wide net.

February 3, 2023 – The European Union Issues Antitrust Warning to Microsoft

According to Politico, EU representatives issued a formal warning to Microsoft over its acquisition plans, claiming that Microsoft could be “incentivized” to keep Call of Duty away from rival consoles.

In response, Microsoft said it is “listening carefully to the European Commission’s concerns and are confident we can address them.”

With the EU, the UK, and the US seemingly critical of the acquisition, scrutiny from the world’s top market regulators has only intensified as the deal tries to find a way forward.

February 8, 2023 – Xbox’s Acquisition of Activision Blizzard Could Harm Gamers, CMA Says

The UK’s CMA published a provisional report of its investigation that raised several concerns about Xbox’s plans to acquire Activision Blizzard. This included risk of higher prices for games, fewer choices, and less innovation for UK gamers.

One particular area of concern is cloud gaming. According to the CMA, Microsoft accounts for 60% to 70% of current cloud gaming offerings and making Call of Duty an exclusive could “alter the future of gaming.”

The CMA also said that making games exclusive to Xbox “could substantially reduce the competition between Xbox and PlayStation in the UK,” and “could result in all gamers seeing higher prices, reduced range, lower quality, and worse service in gaming consoles over time[.]”

February 21, 2023 – Xbox Signs 10-Year Deal to Bring Call of Duty to Nintendo, Nvidia

Microsoft president Brad Smith confirmed that the company signed a binding 10-year contract to bring Call of Duty games to Nintendo device owners “the same day as Xbox, with full feature and content parity.” This deal is meant to highlight that Xbox’s acquisition would not silo Call of Duty to the Xbox ecosystem, and what better way than bringing Call of Duty to a platform the series has aggressively ignored in the past?

In particular, the promise to deliver Call of Duty games to Nintendo gamers with full content parity feels especially ambitious given Nintendo’s hardware performance issues.

On the same day, Microsoft announced a 10-year deal to bring all of its PC games to Nvidia’s GeForce Now streaming service, including Activision Blizzard titles. This is a direct response to the UK CMA’s concerns regarding cloud gaming as Nvidia is a major rival in the service.

With the agreement, Nvidia dropped its concerns over the acquisition, clearing away at least one major tech company from opposing the deal.

With months before the UK CMA’s final report and still plenty of hurdles left, we will likely have many more episodes before we see any conclusion to Microsoft’s plans to acquire Activision Blizzard.

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New photos reveal more details about Google’s Pixel 9 Pro Fold

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Google’s secret new line of Pixel 9 phones isn’t that big of a secret anymore. Taiwan’s National Communications Commission (NCC) released new photos of the phones including the Pixel 9 Pro Fold from almost every conceivable angle.

Android Authority found the photos in the NCC archives and uploaded galleries of each of the four phones including the Pixel 9, 9 Pro, 9 Pro XL and 9 Pro Fold. They reveal some interesting details about the new Pixel phones.

The charging rates will be a little faster than the last generation of Pixel phones: Taiwanese authorities measured 24.12W for the base model, 25.20W for the Pro and 32.67W for the 9 Pro XL. The Pixel 9 Pro Fold, however, was the slowest of all of them at 20.25W. These numbers don’t often match up perfectly with the advertised ratings, so expect Google to be promoting higher numbers at its event.

Speaking of chargers, it looks like Google needed a bigger charger to power its new phones. Photos included in the NCC leak show each phone will come with a wall charger that’s around 45W depending on which model you purchase. The charger’s plug moved from the middle to the top of the brick.

The Google Pixel 9 Pro Fold can fully unfold.
NCC/Android Authority

The latest photo dump also shows the 9 Pro Fold unfolded for the first time. Google has moved the selfie camera to the inside screen for a wider field of view. The 9 Pro Fold also has a slimmer top and bottom, a reduced fold crease on the display and a full 180 degree unfolding angle to make a screen that’s just over 250mm or just under 10 inches.

These photos are the latest in a very long list of leaks of Google Pixel 9 photos. The last Pixel 9 leak came down yesterday showing two prototype models of the base and XL models. Google might look into buying a new combination lock for the high school locker where they apparently keep all their unreleased gear.

 

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Apple Wallet now supports Canada’s Presto card, with Express Transit

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Apple Wallet now supports the Presto transit card used in Ontario, Canada. The card can be used for travel in Toronto, Hamilton, and Ottawa.

The digital version of the card includes the Express Transit Pass feature, meaning that you can tap in and out without having to authenticate …

 

Ontario’s Presto card

The Presto contactless smart card system was first trialled back in 2007, and started the full rollout in 2009. The card can be used across 11 different transit systems in the areas covered.

Apple Wallet support was first promised many years ago, but things went quiet until a “coming soon” announcement back in May of this year.

Although the contactless terminals allow the use of credit and debit cards for regular fares, a Presto card is needed for monthly passes and discounted travel.

Apple Wallet support now available

The company made the announcement today.

Tap to ride with PRESTO on iPhone and Apple Watch.

Traveling around town just got easy with your PRESTO in Apple Wallet. With Express Mode, you don’t need to wake or unlock your iPhone or Apple Watch or open any apps to use PRESTO in Apple Wallet. Just hold your device near the reader to pay and go.

Ride, even when your iPhone needs a charge

If your iPhone needs a charge, PRESTO Card in Apple Wallet will still work. Power Reserve provides up to five hours of support, so you can still ride.

Reload on the go. 

With your PRESTO card on your iPhone and Apple Watch, you can easily load funds, right from Apple Wallet or PRESTO App. No need to visit a customer service outlet.

Extra security. Built right in 

PRESTO in Apple Wallet can take full advantage of the privacy and security features built into iPhone and Apple Watch. Your PRESTO card is stored on the device, which means Apple does not see when you use it—helping keep your data private and secure.

If you lose your iPhone or Apple Watch, you can use the Find My app to lock and help locate the device and suspend your PRESTO card or remotely erase the device and its cards.

Mobile Syrup reports that you can choose between adding your existing card to your Wallet, or creating a new one.

There are two ways to add a Presto card to Apple Wallet. You can either buy a new card or move your old one over using the Presto app.

That being said, for simplicity’s sake, unless you have a discounted Presto agreement like a student or senior plan, I think most riders will be happy just making a new card in Apple Wallet and loading funds from that app.

As with any digital card or pass, you can use either your iPhone or Apple Watch, but because each generates a unique virtual card number, you need to use the same device at both ends of your journey.

Express Transit feature

To minimize delays, Presto offers Express Transit support. This means that you don’t need to authenticate using Face ID or Touch ID on your iPhone, and you don’t need to double-tap the side button on your Apple Watch. Simply hold your device close to the pad and you’re good (a number of clues are used to detect fraudulent use).

Express Transit also has the advantage that it continues to work in Low Power mode, so you’ll still be able to complete your journey even if your phone or Watch is almost dead.

Image: Presto

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The OnePlus Pad 2 Wants to Be the iPad Air of Android Tablets

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The original OnePlus Pad was a decent all-around Android tablet, but it was not amazing in any one area. Now, OnePlus is back with a new tablet device that packs more power, has a better screen, more speakers, and a higher starting price. OnePlus offers an Android tablet alternative that costs less than the latest iPad Airs, though it seems like it’s hewing very close to the rendition from 2023. 

The OnePlus Pad 2 is a one-size-fits-all 12.1-inch 3K tablet. At $550 for 12 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage, it’s $70 more than the first OnePlus Pad, though it starts with more memory and twice as much internal storage as the first go around’s paltry 128 GB. It’s bigger than the 11.6 LCD on last year’s Pad, though now it’s beefed its resolution to 3K (3000 x 2120) with a stated 600 nits typical and 900 nits peak brightness. It has a variable refresh rate between 30 and 144 Hz, though it’s still an LCD screen, the same as the 2023 OnePlus Pad.

Just like last year’s version, the new Pad supports Dolby Atmos, but it boasts a six-stereo speaker configuration on either side of the device. It may not be as specifically sound-tailored as the Lenovo Tab Plus, but what’s promised is a solid middle ground. 

Last year’s tablet used MediaTek Dimensity 9000 CPU, which was good enough for most applications but not exactly top of its class. The Pad 2 is now powered with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 mobile chip. Gizmodo has already experienced some of the chip’s capabilities in Samsung’s latest foldables, and already it’s very promising. We haven’t yet had the chance to compare a Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 tablet to Apple’s latest iPad Air with M2, though on the whole, M2 usually performs better than Qualcomm’s mobile chips in bare benchmark tests. How much that matters depends on what programs you expect to use on your tablet. 

Image: OnePlus

Every device maker thinks they need AI to compete, and OnePlus isn’t an outlier here. There are promised “AI Toolbox” features like AI text-to-speech and recording summaries. The AI Eraser 2.0 will also work like Google’s Magic Eraser to remove unwanted photo elements. 

There’s a new $99 OnePlus Stylo 2 and a $150 Oneplus Smart Keyboard to accompany the new tablet. Despite the size and price difference, there will be many similarities between last year’s and the 2024 model. The Pad 2 has the same 9,510 mAh battery as last year’s, plus the 67W “SUPERVOOC” fast charging. It promises 43 days of standby time, though in our experience, the first Pad’s lifespan and promised “one-month standby life” was far more modest in practice, lasting most of the day before needing a recharge. 

With a bigger screen, the upcoming Pad 2 is slightly heavier than last year’s rendition. It weighs about 1.3 pounds, so it’s exactly between the 11- and 13-inch iPad Airs or slightly more than the base 11-inch Galaxy Tab S9 (and far less than the humongous Tab S9 Ultra). It will be relatively thin at 6.49 mm, but it’s not beating the iPad Air’s 6.1 mm or the iPad Pro 13-inch’s holy grail 5.1 mm.

The first OnePlus Pad didn’t exactly break new ground in any one category, though it did show Android tablets had legs. We’ve seen attempts from Goole and its Pixel Tablet, though that, too, wasn’t the pioneer of Android tablets. A better chip and more speakers do seem promising, though, in its effort to be everything to everyone, we’ll need to see if it manages to stand out in any area.

The OnePlus Pad 2 is now available for preorder. It should be available on the OnePlus website starting July 30 and on Amazon starting August.

 

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