Microsoft’s FTC trial has come to an end, and while we haven’t reached a verdict, we’ve learned a lot of industry insider information that isn’t normally available to the public.
From the drama surrounding the exclusivity of Starfield and other Bethesda titles to the huge production costs of AAA games like The Last of Us Part II, there are plenty of shocking revelations from the court battle. this week. Here are 12 key things we learned from the Xbox FTC hearing.
Microsoft Acquires Activision Blizzard: The Story So Far
Xbox admits to losing the Console war
The whole Xbox/Activision Blizzard saga is filled with both Microsoft and Sony downplaying their respective achievements to appear as meek as possible in front of regulators. The FTC hearing is no exception, as the week begins with news about Microsoft declares Xbox has officially “lost the console war”.
Microsoft claims its original Xbox was crushed by Sony and Nintendo when it entered the market in 2001, and the company says it has “lost” the “game console war” ever since. Citing numbers from 2021, Microsoft says the Xbox has a 16% share of the console video game market. Xbox’s Phil Spencer also gave a piece about the war on consoles, calling it “social work in the community” in his testimony.
Microsoft says next generation could start in 2028
Years of hardware shortages and a flurry of game releases between generations can make this generation of consoles feel like they’re just getting started. But the reality is we’re in for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S third birthday parties. In court documents reviewed by IGN, Microsoft is expecting the next generation – that is, a successor to the PlayStation 6 and Xbox Series X|S – to start in 2028.
If Microsoft’s prediction remains correct, that means we’re only a year and a half away from this current generation. The year 2028 puts the PS5 and Xbox Series on an eight-year cycle, a year longer than the PS4 and Xbox One and roughly the same time as the Xbox 360/PS3 generation.
Microsoft wants to take over Bungie, Sega, Square Enix, Zynga, etc
The last few years have seen the game industry’s biggest players make a massive acquisition. We’ve seen Sony acquiring Bungie, Microsoft acquiring Bethesda, etc. But in court documents we learned that Microsoft had plans for some big name deals that ultimately didn’t happen.
Specifically, Microsoft had a conversation about buy back Sega, Square Enix, Zynga, and even Bungie before Sony bought them. But Microsoft’s ambitions go beyond these big players. Internal documents leaked list of 100 developers Microsoft reviewed at a time, before narrowing it down to the final eight candidates. This list includes Supergiant Games by developer Hades, Pokemon GO’s Niantic, IO Interactive, etc.
Sony’s AAA games cost over $200 million to produce
We’ve always known that modern AAA video games cost a lot of money to make. But now we know well how expensive some of these games are. In a poorly edited document sent by Sony Interactive Entertainment, we learned The Last of Us Part II cost 220 million USD to develop, while Horizon Forbidden West cost $212 million. In the document, PlayStation says the cost is reasonable because AAA games “create deep and ongoing interaction with players.”
These costs provide more context for recent comment from Xbox Game Studios’ Matt Bootywho has said that big budget AAA games take half a decade or more to make and failure has the potential to ruin a studio.
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In fact, Call of Duty is worth a lot of money
It’s no surprise that Call of Duty has been at the center of nearly the entire courtroom fight over the past week. Activision’s biggest asset keeps coming up, with the FTC raising concerns about exclusivity or the possibility of Activision releasing a worse version of Call of Duty on PlayStation.
Call of Duty’s impact makes sense, as the same poorly edited document from Sony revealed that Call of Duty has generated over 800 million dollars exclusively for PlayStation in the US in 2021. From Phil Spencer testifies under oath that Xbox will keep Call of Duty on PlayStation, to claim that Activision CEO Bobby Kotick Threaten to withdraw Call of Duty from Xbox Unless Microsoft grants Activision a higher share of the revenue, we’ve learned a lot about the value of franchises to both Sony and Microsoft.
Jim Ryan doesn’t think Starfield exclusivity is anticompetitive and says PlayStation will be fine
PlayStation boss Jim Ryan has made it very clear that he is not an exclusive fan of Starfield’s Xbox. That being said, he admits he doesn’t think it’s anticompetitive. Publicly, PlayStation is the biggest rival of the Microsoft Activision merger. But privately, that’s another story.
In an email sent after Microsoft announced its intention to acquire Activision Blizzard, Ryan wrote, “I’m pretty sure we’ll continue to see Call of Duty on PlayStation for years to come,” expressing that PlayStation will be better if the transaction is approved.
Starfield almost skipped Xbox altogether
Starfield is launching this September as an Xbox exclusive, but that hasn’t always been the case. Xbox boss Phil Spencer has confirmed that Starfield will likely skip Xbox altogether before Microsoft acquired ZeniMax.
Xbox was worried about losing Starfield following PlayStation exclusivity deals for Bethesda games like Ghostwire: Tokyo and Deathloop. Spencer said Microsoft must secure content for Xbox in order to “maintain business viability.” Xbox did so by acquiring ZeniMax outright, locking down Starfield as an Xbox exclusive.
Drama surrounding Bethesda Monopoly: Indiana Jones, Elder Scrolls, etc
The FTC has been trying to demonstrate that Xbox’s handling of ZeniMax games could demonstrate how the company will handle exclusivity when it comes to Activision Blizzard games. One evidence used was the chat exchange between Tim Stuart and Matt Booty of Xbox. The chat log focuses on the November 2021 meeting, where Phil Spencer clearly decided to do it all Xbox exclusive future Bethesda gamesnot just new IP.
Monopoly was brought up in a number of different ways during the hearing, especially in regards to the ZeniMax studios. We’ve been told that MachineGames’ upcoming AAA Indiana Jones game has been around for a while is set to be a cross-platform release before Microsoft’s acquisition plan changed. Regarding other future games, Spencer stated that final decisions on the platform for upcoming Bethesda games such as The Outer Worlds of Obsidian 2 And The Elder Scrolls 6 by Bethesda Game Studios has not yet been implemented. But given Spencer’s clear decision, it seems likely that deciding to excise Xbox for those titles may be more of a formality than a practical decision at this point.
The Elder Scrolls 6 is a long way off
Speaking of The Elder Scrolls 6, don’t expect to play a Skyrim sequel anytime soon. We already knew The Elder Scrolls 6 was supposed to be Bethesda Game Studios’ next priority after Starfield (With Fallout 5 after TES6), but Spencer said the game is still “five years away.” Five years from now is 2028, which puts us in the window for the next generation of consoles we discussed earlier. So it’s entirely possible that The Elder Scrolls 6 could be a multi-generational release or skip this current console generation altogether.
Everyone says they don’t like monopolies
For all the talk of exclusive games, many industry figures have stood up and said that they are not fans of exclusive games. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said he has “no love” for console exclusivesand that Microsoft plays the monopoly game to stay competitive with the market leaders. Activision CEO Bobby Kotick agreed, saying making Call of Duty Xbox exclusive is not in Activision’s best interestand it will actually be detrimental to the business.
“You will alienate more than 100 million monthly active players,” says Kotick. Half of them play on phones, but the rest play on PCs and PlayStations, and you will be angry if you remove the game from over 100 million players. a foundation. Gamers are passionate… And with such investment, time and effort, you get a group of enthusiastic, passionate people.”
Sony’s Jim Ryan and Activision’s Bobby Kotick have words for Game Pass
PlayStation boss Jim Ryan has got Strong words for Xbox Game Pass, stated that he “has talked to all the publishers and they unanimously don’t like Game Pass because it destroys value.” Ryan also claims Game Pass is not profitable for Microsoft. IGN has reached out to Xbox for comment, and Xbox has indicated that every Game Pass title announced at this month’s Xbox Games Showcase has come from a creator who previously worked with the subscription service. And, there are many examples of publishers backing Xbox Game Pass, so it’s not entirely clear who exactly Ryan is referring to.
We know that Activision’s Bobby Kotick Doesn’t Want To Watch His Games On Subscription Servicesas he said, “I don’t agree with the idea of a multi-game subscription service as a future business proposition, but we [Activision and Microsoft] can agree to disagree.”
Activision CEO Bobby Kotick Regrets Not Supporting Nintendo Switch
The Nintendo Switch is an undeniable success. But that wasn’t clear to everyone when Nintendo was emerging from the Wii U era in 2017. In fact, even Activision’s Bobby Kotick underestimated the Nintendo Switch when he saw its prototype. Now, I admit it’s a the mistake of not developing more software for Switchand said Activision will consider bringing Call of Duty to future Nintendo consoles once they have the specifications of the next device.
There’s so much more to read about this week’s big trial while we all await the verdict. Check out our breakdowns on How Microsoft’s mask is slipping offAnd Activision states that the FTC “doesn’t really understand our industry.” And, IGN Senior Correspondent, Rebekah Valentine, was in the courtroom all week, and she wrote analyzes and summaries for all day belong to the hearing. Or, for all the news highlights, check out ours The full summary of the Microsoft FTC hearing.
Logan Plant is a freelance writer for IGN on video games and entertainment news. He has over seven years of experience in the games industry with sublines at IGN, Nintendo Wire, Switch Player Magazine and Lifewire. Find him on Twitter @LoganJPlant.