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Microsoft is now offering a free global license to all cloud gaming services for Activision titles

We've all seen the ten-year deals Microsoft has signed with various cloud gaming companies to offer Activision titles like Call of Duty to rival cloud gaming providers. As it turns out, in order to get its acquisition of Activision Blizzard approved by the EU, Microsoft had to go a step further, offering a free global license to all cloud gaming providers.

As part of the EU's press release announcing approval of the deal, it was noted in the remedies section that Microsoft is now offering a free license to all cloud gaming services and gamers within the EEA, allowing players to stream Activision games through whatever cloud service they prefer. As it turns out, this free license is actually on offer globally, not just in Europe.

In a tweet this afternoon, Microsoft President, Brad Smith, said: “The European Commission has required Microsoft to license popular Activision Blizzard games automatically to competing cloud gaming services. This will apply globally and will empower millions of consumers worldwide to play these games on any device they choose.”

There is a caveat here – the license applies to ‘Bring your Own Game' services, like GeForce Now, where users are allowed to stream games they've already purchased on platforms like Steam, the Epic Games Store or other digital stores on PC. It does not apply to services that directly sell games through their own store, which was Google Stadia's business model. Fortunately, very few cloud gaming services operate this way and prefer to approach the market in a similar way to GeForce Now, where users can pay a subscription for access to more powerful servers and other benefits, rather than buying games directly from the cloud provider.

While the EU was satisfied with Microsoft's free, global license, available to all cloud gaming providers without exception, the UK's Competition & Markets Authority claims that the deal will allow Microsoft to “set the terms and conditions” for the cloud gaming market for the next ten years. The CMA went on to say that it stands by its initial decision.

That could eventually change. Recently, UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, announced plans to review the CMA's policies and potentially make changes. The UK government will be meeting with CMA heads this week in parliament to question them on the work the CMA is doing.

At this point, the deal is still being blocked in the UK but Microsoft and Activision are set to file an appeal. Microsoft is also preparing to take the FTC on in court over in the USA in order to push the deal through.

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KitGuru Says: If the UK government really wants the UK to become a tech hub, then it is going to have to improve its understanding of the industry and work better with companies in this space. So far, all they've managed to do is send ARM off to the US stock market and right now, both Activision and Microsoft are reevaluating investment plans for the UK and may well choose to spend more in the EU instead, simply due to more reasonable and knowledgable regulators – Activision itself is already hinting at this exact outcome

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