Starting Tomorrow, Marvel Snap Will Let You Battle Your Friends

Marvel Snap is very good. We’ve said that before. Heck, we even called it one of the best games of 2022. But it did lack one big feature at launch: the ability to challenge your friends. Tomorrow’s Marvel Snap update will finally add the much-requested feature to the popular card game.

Following a beta period, Marvel Snap came out on phones and PC back in October. It quickly became popular due to its focus on small decks, fast matches, and random chaos. Since then it’s received multiple updates, adding good stuff like artist credits, and bad stuff like expensive in-game bundles. But what people really wanted was a way to directly face off against their friends. Shortly after release, the devs promised a battle mode for buddies was coming later in 2022. Then that quietly got delayed to 2023. But it’s finally arriving tomorrow, and I’m very excited.

Battle mode in Marvel Snap will work a bit differently than how current matches play out. Instead of one fast match, you’ll play multiple rounds against your friend using the same decks. Developer Second Dinner says matches will likely last around 20 minutes, which sounds a bit long for my taste, but we shall see.

How Battle Mode will work in Marvel Snap

Here’s how the developer explains this new mode in a blog from earlier this month:

Battle Mode pits two opponents against each other through multiple rounds. Each player starts with 10 health. Instead of Cubes, what’s at stake is the amount of damage the winner will deal to the loser. If you can deplete your opponent’s health to zero, you win!

In Battle Mode, the stakes become front and center. Every SNAP and Retreat takes extra meaning, as every point of health is critical to remaining alive.

Barring any last-minute delays or issues, starting tomorrow, January 31, you’ll be able to challenge your friends to a duel in Marvel Snap. On top of that, a bunch of rare and powerful cards are dropping in Series, like Shuri and Black Panther, letting you farm them easier from the collection path. And they’ll cost less in the Token Shop. All around good news!

While some might not care about this upcoming battle mode, I’m very excited. Being able to duel your friends is an important part of a good card game. I also need to beat my coworkers with my awesome Zabu deck. It will make the game even better and make me feel like a smart, powerful gamer. That, or I’ll get my ass kicked so bad that I delete my decks and never return to Slack.

 

Epic Kills Battle Royale Game Just Six Months After Release

In August 2022, Epic Games—developers of Fortnite, custodians of the Epic Games Store, creators of the Unreal Engine, rich as God—published a melee-based battle royale game called Rumbleverse. It is now January 2023 (February already for me here in Australia), and the game is already being killed off.

Here are some impressions written by Zack in September 2022—you might remember September 2022, it only just happened—in which he said that, despite the battle royale genre getting a little tired and Epic themselves already having Fortnite, it was pretty good!

Even though I sort of suck at Rumbleverse and I find its challenge system a bit anemic at the moment, I’m still excited to load it back up and play some more. There are so many good (and bad) battle royale shooters out there in 2022. But a really good, colorful, and exciting wrestling-themed battle royale—with solid body shape diversity, no less—is a nice thing to have. I hope the game sticks around and gets future seasons with more content, quests, and challenges that can help make the game even more enjoyable, even for crappy fighters like myself.

Womp.

The decision to shut the game down was announced earlier today by developers Iron Galaxy:

They followed that up with a short statement on their company site, in which they share hopes that just because Epic is killing the game off doesn’t mean it’s dead forever, and that “You may not yet have seen the Rumble in its final form”:

At Iron Galaxy, we believe very strongly in the value of bringing people together to share meaningful experiences in games. Every single one of us is a gamer. It’s what motivates us to create. With the announcement of the sunsetting of Rumbleverse, we want to share a more personal note with the players who have joined us in Grapital City.

When you work on a video game, you imagine the community that will show up to play it someday. For years, we dreamed about a lively city filled with people fighting to become a champion. We strived to create a vibrant place that celebrated the competitive spirit. Our goal was to bring joy back to online multiplayer gaming.

The people who gave Rumbleverse a chance and took it on as a new hobby have validated every day that we put into bringing our ideas to life. We have loved watching you play. We have learned from your stories and your insights. We even passed around the art you’ve created to immortalize your best moments in the streets.

It is our sincerest hope that this news does not mark the end of Rumbleverse. You may not yet have seen the Rumble in its final form. If we can welcome people back onto the deck of the battle barge again, we hope you’ll be there, laced up and ready to take your rightful place in the cannon.

Iron Galaxy will keep making games. It’s our passion and our purpose. Our people are filled with skills and inspirations to keep the world playing.

Thank you for playing. This is not the last time you’ll hear from us. This is not the last time we’ll invite you to play.

The servers for the game will be shut down on February 28.

PlayStation Accuses Microsoft Of ‘Harassment’ In Court Battle

The struggles to get Microsoft’s proposed $69 billion purchase of Activision Blizzard over the line aren’t just playing out at government watchdogs and in the public eye, but in courtrooms as well. And in one of those battlegrounds, Microsoft is making demands of its rival Sony that the latter say constitute “obvious harassment”.

Via Axios’ newsletter, a series of court documents have been filed over the last couple of weeks detailing some of the legal skirmishes currently playing out between Microsoft, who want to complete the blockbuster deal, and Sony, who are one of a number of companies and organisations who absolutely do not want this to happen.

These particular filings are about Sony’s attempts to fight the proposed sale, and that as part of their defence Microsoft is entitled to “discovery”, which is basically just letting them get hold of a load of documents and emails from certain Sony executives. Both companies have been haggling over the number of executives this will include and the scope of the discovery for ages, but things took a turn earlier this month when Microsoft accused Sony of first stalling, and then not providing all the information they might need:

Sony Interactive Entertainment (“SIE”)—whose gaming business has dwarfed Xbox’s for 20 years—is not an ordinary third party in this action. At great expense and over an extended period, SIE has deployed delegations of executives, large teams of outside lawyers, and highpriced economists to persuade regulators here and around the world to block Microsoft Corp.’s

(“Microsoft’s”) proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard King. SIE’s efforts are paying off: The FTC’s complaint in this action is chock-full of allegations about the effects the deal will have on SIE’s business. This case is as much about SIE as it is about Xbox and Activision. Timely discovery from SIE is therefore critical to Microsoft’s defense.

Though SIE’s motion for an extension of time complains about the breadth of the subpoena and the length of the extensions already granted for it to respond to that subpoena, Microsoft already told SIE it would consent to a fourth extension of time to negotiate issues related to the scope of the subpoena’s requests. But Microsoft believes that court intervention is required now on one issue: whether SIE will collect and produce documents from certain custodians.

In response, Sony said that they hadn’t supplied all the information Microsoft were requesting because they were being asked for way too much, including things like access to internal performance reviews, something Sony say “is obvious harassment”, and that “even in employment cases courts require a specific showing of relevance before requiring production of personnel files.”

All of which is only mildly interesting, I know, but I bring this up mostly so we can just link to both Microsoft and Sony’s motions, which are full of some incredible self-owns, like Microsoft saying PlayStation’s success “has dwarfed Xbox’s for 20 years”, along with some very funny wordage in Sony’s filing, like the way they say Microsoft’s subpoena was, like, “truly massive”.

Update 5:22am ET, February 10: Removed mention of the “MOTION TO LIMIT OR QUASH SUBPOENA” as the matter is still ongoing.

AI Enters Chess Battle, Cheats, Still Loses Badly

A Reddit user recently pit the chess engine Stockfish, which has won the Top Chess Engine Championship eight times, against the notorious AI-powered conversation bot ChatGPT in a dismal chess match. While Stockfish, as it has been created to do, was able to hold its own, ChatGPT sadly succumbed to chess’ high-stakes environment and went on a cheating spree before losing.

Or, more accurately, as original Reddit poster u/megamaz_ explains in a thread, ChatGPT got swept up by its naivete.

“It simply doesn’t have enough context on the game of chess to be able to know the state of the board and understand the moves it’s making,” megamaz_ said. “In other words, it doesn’t know how to play.”

This is excusable since ChatGPT, a language model trained and distributed by OpenAI, wasn’t born to play chess. It was, more broadly, built to answer requests and respond to questions.

Though it’s become a popular example of how artificial intelligence might soon be used to open up our skulls and eat our brains, ChatGPT is even more ridiculously fallible than a human in some contexts. Even OpenAI admits on its website that ChatGPT “sometimes writes plausible-sounding but incorrect or nonsensical answers,” offers “often excessively verbose and overuses certain phrases, such as restating that it’s a language model trained by OpenAI,” and “will sometimes respond to harmful instructions or exhibit biased behavior.” It never claimed to be perfect. It doesn’t know everything. So when megamaz_ invited it to a game of chess, it had to get creative.

“If you see pieces appear out of nowhere, that’s because that’s literally what ChatGPT said it would play,” megamaz_ said.

“Are you sure you wanna do that?,” megamaz_ asked ChatGPT at one point during their game. “Rg8 captures your own king.”

“Oops, it looks like I made a mistake,” ChatGPT replied humbly. “My apologies!” Well, at least it’s not a sore loser.

Steam’s Most Hyped Zombie Game Is In The Weirdest Legal Battle

For a while now—or at least until last month, when it was delisted—The Day Before was one of the most hotly-anticipated games on Steam. That was until the wheels started falling off the project, with a delay announced, doubts raised over whether its gameplay footage was even real and now a legal dispute over the game’s name that comes from the unlikeliest of places.

The dispute itself isn’t new; developers Fntastic cited this as the reason the game was taken off Steam last month:

Dear fans!

Right before the release, Steam blocked our game page at the request of a private individual, because of the name The Day Before.

As you know, our game was announced in January 2021. At the time of the announcement, The Day Before game trademark was available.

After the announcement of the game, the above mentioned individual filled out an application before us to register the game trademark The Day Before in the United States.

What’s next?

Previously, we were not aware of the existence of claims. We found out about this only on January 19, 2023, when we received a complaint from him and a request to contact him.

Now we find out all the circumstances of the incident and we will definitely solve everything.

But where the issue was initially believed to have been an individual filing for the trademark, Eurogamer has confirmed that the existing owner of the name The Day Before is actually…a Korean calendar app that first released in 2010.

The developer and its CEO Lee Sun-jae say they first registered the trademark in Korea all the way back in 2015, and also claim they currently hold trademark rights for the name in “Korea, the United States, China, Russia, Japan, Vietnam, and the European Union”. It should be noted that Lee’s application in the United States wasn’t granted until August 2022, supporting Fntastic’s claim that the trademark had been available in January 2021.

As we reported last month, the US trademark granted to the calendar app covers “artwork, artistic performances, music, show entertainment, leisure activity [and] online [games].”

“Knowing that the game of the same name was produced”, they say in a statement, “we are taking measures to protect trademark rights.”

Sony Microsoft’s Battle Over Activision Is A Full Blown Circus

Over a year after it was first announced, Microsoft’s $69 billion Activision Blizzard deal is being picked apart under a microscope by regulators. It still appears to be crawling towards its inexorable conclusion, but things are getting very messy, and incredibly silly, in the process.

The latest stunt? Activision’s chief communications officer accused Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Jim Ryan of refusing to even consider an agreement that would keep Call of Duty on PlayStation for 10 years, apparently in the hopes of sabotaging the biggest tech merger in history.

“I don’t want a new Call of Duty deal,” Ryan reportedly said in a close-door meeting in Brussels, Belgium last month. “I want to block your merger.”

That’s according to Activision’s Lulu Cheng Meservey, who you may remember from past Twitter threads such as Elon Musk critics need not apply, unions are bad actually, and “Sony is ‘the first of us.’” Responding to a follow-up question by The Verge’s Tom Warren, she confirmed the comment was made on February 21, the day Microsoft and Sony met for closed door hearings with EU regulators.

The comment, which Sony has yet to confirm or deny, is at once both obvious and an unusual breach of the hyper secrecy around everything that’s become standard operating procedure in the video game industry. Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer propped the door open last fall when he told The Verge that his company had previously presented a proposal to Sony to extend its current contract to bring Call of Duty to PlayStation. “I hadn’t intended to comment on what I understood to be a private business discussion,” Ryan responded at the time. Meservey’s tweet yesterday was the equivalent of kicking that door down.

Read More: Everything That’s Happened In The Microsoft-Activision Merger Saga

It’s also just the latest chess move in an absurd game of two tech behemoths jockeying for position in the global gaming market by trying to work the refs. The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority, which Microsoft has accused of being in Sony’s pocket, suggested last month that it simply buy every part of Activision Blizzard except the Call of Duty one.

Microsoft recently responded with proposed deals to put the blockbuster franchise on Switch and keep it on PlayStation for at least 10 years. Sony countered that there was nothing to stop Call of Duty from being buggier on PlayStation than Xbox if Microsoft owns it. Microsoft said nuh uh. Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick said the UK would become “death valley” if it messes the deal up.

Meanwhile in the EU, Reuters recently reported that Microsoft seems poised to prevail, while in the U.S. the Federal Trade Commission is still preparing its antitrust lawsuit that seems engineered more to extract concessions than to completely scuttle the merger. And Microsoft has already prevailed in other large markets like Brazil.

This entire process has been enlightening and useful in so far as it’s forced companies to reveal things they never would have otherwise, including that Game Pass does cannibalize some sales on Xbox, and that Sony doesn’t think Electronic Arts’ Battlefield will ever truly be able to compete with Call of Duty. But it’s also been a ridiculous sideshow in how much it’s revolved around a single game and a few metrics like console market share.

Last year’s Modern Warfare II proved the multiplayer shooter series remains incredibly popular and profitable. At the same time, video games have shown time and again how foolhardy and perilous it is to try and predict what players will want five years out. The Xbox 360 ate the PS3’s lunch. Sony returned the favor with the PS4. Everyone thought Nintendo would go out of business after the Wii U. The Switch is now the best thing it’s ever made. Hey, wait, I’ve got an idea. What if instead of buying Activision Blizzard, Microsoft just made the Switch 2?

Sony, Microsoft, and Activision did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Correction 3/10/23 11:58 a.m. ET: The Elon Musk thread wasn’t deleted, just the part of it referencing “context collapse.”  

                     

Fortnite Update Brings Star Wars Battle Pass, Darth Maul Skin

This year’s Fortnite Star Wars crossover is officially here, just in time for May the 4th. Naturally, there’s some of the expected: New Star Wars-themed skins and special Quests. But the official update post lays out even more Force fun to be had from now until May 23.

Diverging from past Fortnite Star Wars crossover events, like the limited edition Kylo Ren outfit added to the item shop earlier this year, “Find the Force” zeroes in on the polarizing prequel trilogy. Anakin Skywalker, Padmé Amidala, 501st Trooper, and 212th Battalion Trooper skins are all currently available from the item shop, looking much like the famous actors that played them, and are therefore prime for real-time fanfiction (plus, we get the version of Padmé post-Geonosis battle. Though Fortnite conceals her iconic, chiseled, 1999 midriff, it should still be reminiscent for those yearning f0r the era of low-rise jeans). Players can pursue Find the Force Quests to unlock even more cosmetics, including a Clone Trooper outfit, the ultimate reward in the free track, though it’s not necessarily as ideal for fanfiction.

“The Find the Force Quests are separated into three main sets with certain Quests associated with each one,” says Fornite’s blog. “If you complete twelve Quests in a set, you’ll earn a Sith Holocron. Earn three Sith Holocrons to unlock the Sith Infiltrator Glider!”

Woohoo! The three Quests will go live in segments, with “The Force Within” available to play now, “Begun the Clone Wars Have” opening up on May 7, and “Fall of the Republic” closing things out on May 12. You can play an “epilogue” Quest, “The First Galactic Empire,” on May 17. Players will once again have access to lightsabers, which will stay in their hands until they “drop [them], get eliminated, or the match ends,” and also give players access to the Force, which can be used to sprint faster, double jump, push, pull, or throw, while their lightsaber is equipped. If that’s not enough, the “high accuracy” DC-15 Blaster can be found hidden in Republic Chests.

There’s a teeny battle pass, too. For bonus Quest rewards, players can purchase the Premium Reward Track upgrade for 1,000 V-bucks (about eight U.S. bucks), which stacks 11 more unlockables on top of the free track, and it contains the Darth Maul Outfit as its final reward. Sadly, yes, that means you have to pay to get Darth Maul. Fans of Maul actors Sam Witwer, Ray Park, or Peter Serafinowicz might now be hearing their wallets sadly unzipping.

“This track upgrade also contains the unlockable Wolf Pack Trooper Outfit and Ahsoka’s Clone Trooper Outfit,” says Fortnite’s blog. “Upon purchasing the Premium Reward Track upgrade, you’ll automatically receive the Coruscant Guard Outfit.”

Cool. But what if you don’t care about Star Wars? Don’t worry, the v24.30 update didn’t forget you. There are four new Reality Augments, and, even more importantly, a crucial bug fix that allows the Infinite Dab Emote to last 16 hours.

Valve Ditching Battle Passes Since Most Players ‘Never Buy’ One

Valve—the company behind Half-Life, Counter-Strike, and digital game store juggernaut Steam—has revealed its future plans for its popular free-to-play MOBA, Dota 2. And those plans, surprisingly, don’t involve players buying annual paid battle passes that require grinding to unlock cosmetics and other new content. Apparently, and this is maybe even more surprising, Valve says most players never even bought a battle pass.

Dota 2, the Valve-developed sequel to popular Warcraft III mod Defense of the Ancients, turns 10 years old this year. Since launching in 2013, the competitive PC game has continued to be one of the most popular games on Steam, and has attracted millions of viewers via large-scale online tournaments. Dota 2 also was one of the very first video games to launch a battle pass system, tasking players—after buying access—to level up and complete challenges to unlock limited-time content like skins. That type of reward system has become widely used by most free-to-play online video games, like Fortnite and Rocket League.

But now, after helping pioneer battle passes, Valve is ditching them because the company says they sucked up too many resources while not really being something most Dota 2 players actually engaged with.

Why Valve is moving away from battle passes in Dota 2

On Monday, Valve posted a new blog about what it had learned after a decade of running Dota 2. Its main takeaway is that the battle pass—which is connected to the annual Dota tournament known as The International—got too big and was causing problems. According to Valve, over time, the battle pass grew into a massive operation that sucked up nearly all the time, ideas, and resources of staff working on the game. In the early days of Dota 2, content updates were more varied and frequent. But over time the battle pass began to consume every idea or feature, leading to a situation where for most of the year Dota 2 had little to no new content until the next big battle pass update.

Valve recently realized this and decided to change things up.

“[We took] some of the resources that would normally produce Battle Pass content and instead put them towards more speculative updates, including features and content that couldn’t fit into a Battle Pass,” Valve wrote in the blog. “While work is still in progress on future updates, the first of these has shipped: ‘New Frontiers’ and patch 7.33 couldn’t have shipped as they did if we were focusing all our efforts on producing Battle Pass content.”

DUZT / Valve

Perhaps the most interesting bit from this entire blog post is Valve admitting that, according to its data, most players never bought a battle pass or got any rewards from those yearly updates. On the flip side, Valve says “every Dota player” has gotten to explore the game’s newest map, play with all the new items added, and enjoy all the new UI and client improvements that were part of patch 7.33.

“Community response to ‘New Frontiers’ has helped us build confidence that working less on cosmetic content for the Battle Pass and more on a variety of exciting updates is the right long-term path for Dota as both a game and a community,” said Valve.

The future of Dota 2’s annual International updates

Valve did clarify that it will still have content that is connected directly to The International and its prize pool, just as it has with the battle pass, but that this update won’t be filled with new, fancy cosmetics for players to chase after. And because of how big a change this is, coming after nearly a decade, Valve is “intentionally” not calling the next International-focused update a battle pass.

It’s a big shift for one of the biggest free-to-play games on Earth. And if one of the biggest of the big wasn’t selling many battle passes, it makes you wonder just how few battle passes are being sold in other, less-popular F2P games. I also wonder why it took a decade for Valve to realize that most players prefer frequent updates instead of single, annual updates locked behind a paywall.

“By freeing Dota’s update and content cycle from the timing and structural constraints of the Battle Pass,” Valve wrote, “we can go back to making content in the way we know best: by coming up with fun ideas of all scales and shapes and exploring them with you.”

 

Fortnite’s Battle Bus Is Now A Transformer

2023 is continuing to be a weird one as Epic revealed that the bus from its free-to-play battle royale super-hit Fortnite is actually a Transformer.

For as long as people have been playing Fortnite, they’ve been riding (and sometimes jumping out of) its iconic, floating Battle Bus. Through each update, the bus remains. Sometimes it changes colors or gets new looks, but the bus is always there, a constant for all Fortnite players. Good or bad, young or old. But now, after years of riding it, you (yes you) can be the battle bus thanks to a new crossover between Epic and those robots in disguise, Transformers.

On Thursday, Epic Games and Hasbro revealed a new Transformers-themed cosmetic pack launching in Fortnite in October. This follows Optimus Prime’s inclusion in the game’s latest season. And part of the pack is a new Transformer: The Battle Bus. Yes, the bus from Fortnite is now a sentient alien robot from another world. Or, has it always been a Transformer? I mean, these robot aliens are all about blending into their surroundings by transforming into cars, planes, etc. Perhaps the Battle Bus has always been a robot in disguise and now that other Transformers are arriving in the game, the Bus feels comfortable revealing themselves to the world.

This new Transformers character is (confusingly) not an official Transformers character

But wait, according to Epic’s announcement post, the Battle Bus isn’t an “official Transformers character.” It also isn’t aligned with either the heroic Autobots or the evil Decepticons. It’s just here to “get in on the fun too.” A war between sentient robotic aliens isn’t fun, you dumb Battle Bus. Have you seen any of the Transformers films from Michael Bay? Are those fun? No.

And no, I don’t know what happened to the Battle Bus’ driver. Perhaps his corpse is shoved inside this new Transformer, slowly rotting away. Have fun kids!

Anyway, beyond the Bus, this pack will also contain skins based on Megatron and Bumblebee, with each character coming with extra cosmetics like pickaxes and sprays. The full pack also includes 1,000 Fortnite V Bucks, which translates to $8 USD in real human money.

The new Fortnite Transformers pack will be available on all platforms and is launching in stores on October 13 via physical cards and digitally on October 21. It will cost $25.

Microsoft Wins Court Battle Against FTC Over Activision Blizzard Acquisition [Update: FTC Appealing]

Federal Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley has ruled against the Federal Trade Commission’s attempt to block Microsoft from closing its $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard until it can be fully reviewed, freeing up the companies to complete the deal before a July 18 deadline, and potentially paving the way for them to dramatically reshape the future of gaming in the years to come.

Judge Corley writes in her 53-page decision:

This Court’s responsibility in this case is narrow. It is to decide if, notwithstanding these current circumstances, the merger should be halted—perhaps even terminated—pending resolution of the FTC administrative action. For the reasons explained, the Court finds the FTC has not shown a likelihood it will prevail on its claim this particular vertical merger in this specific industry may substantially lessen competition. To the contrary, the record evidence points to more consumer access to Call of Duty and other Activision content. The motion for a preliminary injunction is therefore DENIED.

On just about every point, the Judge found the FTC’s arguments wanting. In particular, she was unmoved by Harvard economics professor Robin Lee’s analysis that Microsoft would have a financial incentive to make Call of Duty and Xbox console exclusive, and wrote that it failed to take into account plans for the franchise to remain on PC, come to Switch, and be accessible through cloud gaming.

“Before the merger, a consumer wanting to play a Call of Duty console game had to buy a PlayStation or an Xbox,” Judge Corley wrote. “After the merger, consumers can utilize the cloud to play on the device of choice, including, it is intended, on the Nintendo Switch. Perhaps bad for Sony. But good for Call of Duty gamers and future gamers.”

What happens to the Microsoft Activision deal now?

The FTC can try to appeal the ruling, and still has its own anti-trust lawsuit in the works, but both appear unlikely at this juncture to derail the deal. The last obstacle in Microsoft’s way, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) blocking the deal in the UK, also appears to be disappearing. Microsoft President Brad Smith tweeted that it is currently set to negotiate with the CMA on final remedies to win back approval for the deal.

“We’re grateful to the court for swiftly deciding in our favor,” Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer tweeted after the decision was announced. “The evidence showed the Activision Blizzard deal is good for the industry and the FTC’s claims about console switching, multi-game subscription services, and cloud don’t reflect the realities of the gaming market.” Activision’s stock price is now the highest it’s been since the deal was first announced back in January 2022, approaching the planned sale price of $95 a share.

The decision comes after a five-day hearing in the Northern District Court of California which included testimony and major revelations from high-ranking industry figures ranging from Spencer to Sony Interactive Gaming CEO Jim Ryan. The FTC tried to argue that Microsoft’s deal to buy Activision Blizzard would have wide-ranging consequences that would harm consumers and lead to less competition in the console gaming market, while Microsoft defended the acquisition, claiming it was a necessary strategic move to counter Sony’s dominance with the PlayStation 5.

Much of the proceedings revolved around debating whether high-end console gaming—Xbox and PlayStation—should be considered separately from PC, Nintendo Switch, and other hardware, and whether franchises like Call of Duty are popular and profitable enough to single-handedly swing momentum from one company to another. At one point while on the stand, Spencer even held up his hand and promised the court that he would not remove Call of Duty from PS5, even as Microsoft and Sony struggled to agree to future licensing terms for the franchise behind closed doors.

Testimony during the trial revealed plenty of gamesmanship on both sides, as well as interesting details about other attempted acquisitions and exclusivity deals. Prior to making an offer for Activision, court documents revealed that Microsoft had also discussed buying Japanese publishers Sega and Square Enix. Corporate emails also showed that executives at the tech giant often discussed making new games exclusive, like Bethesda Software’s upcoming Indiana Jones project, in order to compete with Sony’s opposing deals.

Ultimately, Judge Corley wrote that those examples were unpersuasive because they weren’t live service, multiplatform multiplayer games like Call of Duty. She instead cited Minecraft’s continued non-exclusive availability as a counterexample. “While the FTC argues Microsoft’s ‘past conduct following similar transactions also demonstrates its likely anticompetitive nature,’ presumably referring to the ZeniMax acquisition, this ignores the Mojang/Minecraft acquisition,” she wrote.

Update 7/11/23 12:13 p.m. ET: Added more information about the court’s ruling and the CMA re-starting negotiations with Microsoft.

Update 2, 7/12/23 7:35pm ET: The FTC says it will be appealing.

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