Both Google and Apple have come under regulatory scrutiny over the past few years due to practices with their respective mobile app stores and the lack of competition. As it turns out, Microsoft has been quietly working on its own mobile game store that would take on the Play Store and App Store, but it depends on a forthcoming acquisition.

As The Verge reports, the ongoing investigation into Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard by the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has revealed the company’s plan to build an Xbox-branded mobile game store to take on the Google Play Store and Apple App Store. This would act as an expansion of the Xbox Store.

Microsoft reasons that the store would benefit from the acquisition of Activision Blizzard as it would offer a reason for customers to “try something new” by getting popular games such as Candy Crush Saga (developed by King but published by Activision) and Call of Duty: Mobile. Those two games alone would certainly be strong reasons for consumers to use an alternate store.

Building on Activision Blizzard’s existing communities of gamers, Xbox will seek to scale the Xbox Store to mobile, attracting gamers to a new Xbox Mobile Platform. Shifting consumers away from the Google Play Store and App Store on mobile devices will, however, require a major shift in consumer behavior. Microsoft hopes that by offering well-known and popular content, gamers will be more inclined to try something new.

While Microsoft could easily release its own mobile game store on Android in the same way that Epic Games has offered its own store on Android for some time, the company would face an uphill battle on iOS, where Apple still heavily locks down side-loading. Even for cloud gaming, Microsoft had to focus on browser gameplay rather than streaming through a native app, due to Apple’s restrictions. Google, meanwhile, has made an effort to improve the experience of third-party app stores on Android.

In the same report, Microsoft brings out that the purchase of Activision Blizzard would boost mobile game and ad revenue as well as give Microsoft “much-needed expertise” in that market. While the CMA is highly focused on the impact this acquisition would have on the console gaming market, Microsoft argues that the mobile gaming sector is a much bigger part of the overall gaming market at 51%, as posted on a graph from Microsoft.

Of course, it remains to be seen if this mobile game store from Microsoft would actually come to life. Such a proposal boosts Microsoft’s argument that the acquisition of Activision Blizzard could boost competition, rather than hinder it, as the CMA worries.

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Ben Schoon

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