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Xbox must have mobile presence if it's going to thrive, Phil Spencer says

"The reason we're in the acquisition discussion with Activision Blizzard King is around their mobile capability."

A screenshot of the Microsoft free mobile games store on desktop.
Image credit: Microsoft/Eurogamer.

Phil Spencer has said that Xbox must have a mobile presence in order for the brand to continue to thrive.

In an interview with Eurogamer today at Gamescom in Cologne, Spencer emphasised the importance of mobile for Xbox to continue to grow its audience - and said it was the core reason behind Microsoft's interest in buying Activision Blizzard (including its mobile arm King) for $68.7bn.

"The reason we're in the acquisition discussion with Activision Blizzard King is around their mobile capability," Spencer told me. "Because it's just something we don't have.

"We obviously already have Call of Duty on our platform, we already have Diablo on our platform. So it's not about new games that Xbox players don't have access to today. It is about a capability on mobile, and some broader ambitions that we have on the largest gaming platform, which is mobile phones."

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When asked what Microsoft's plan was if the Activision Blizzard deal fell through - if Xbox's protracted push to get the acquisition approved by regulators ultimately failed - Spencer said he did not think in terms of having a "plan B".

"Any kind of other plan for us would continue to be about: how do we find relevance in the mobile space? And I think there are other paths to make that happen. But when we looked at the universe of creators - I know most people think about Activision probably in the console, PC [space], but if you look from their finances, the business is actually almost the exact opposite.

"So any other plan would still be about [that]. We think that for Xbox to continue to thrive, we need to have some relevant place in the whole province."

Microsoft has mentioned its interest in launching a mobile games store in the past, as another key component of its mobile offering alongside releasing mobile game content.

"We think that's important," Spencer said on the idea of a mobile games store. "Yeah. So that's something we're looking at as well. And when we look at that the reason we think content is important there is, 'how do you attract people to your stores?'.

"If you go back to the origins of how Steam got created, that was about a place for Valve to distribute their content. Why did the players go there? Because Half-Life was awesome. And people wanted to find the expansion packs and other things. So when we look at going into another platform, hopefully that is open to other storefronts, which isn't true globally today.

"We know that having content to draw interest from players, which then draws interest from creators to create, is a model where creators will say, 'Hey, here's a place where I also might want to put our content on mobile phones', [which] is an important ingredient."

Plan A, of course, remains Microsoft buying Activision Blizzard - something its restructuring of the deal this week to divest streaming rights to Ubisoft is aimed at ensuring.

"I remain confident in in the deal," Spencer concluded. "We're obviously working constructively with regulators. It's my first time doing a deal of the size in the regulatory process. Maybe that's obvious now from the outside! But we remain confident in the process."

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