Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard has resulted in an unexpected win for publisher Ubisoft. Once the merger goes through, Ubisoft will be granted streaming rights for all of Activision Blizzard’s extensive game library, as well as for all new games that it releases for the next 15 years.
The Ubisoft+ lineup is expanding!
We're excited to announce a new agreement that will bring Activision Blizzard games to Ubisoft+ via streaming upon the completion of Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard!
We’ll also be licensing the games to a range of cloud streaming… pic.twitter.com/sZTnEFJedC
— Ubisoft (@Ubisoft) August 22, 2023
As per the announcement on Ubisoft’s website, “Ubisoft today announced the signing of an agreement which will give Ubisoft cloud streaming rights to games like Call of Duty and more, coming into effect upon the completion of Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard. The agreement includes the complete slate of current Activision Blizzard games, as well as all their new titles launching in the 15 years after the closing of Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard. The games will land on Ubisoft+, while also allowing Ubisoft to license them to cloud gaming companies, service providers, and console makers.”
Microsoft spending more money than any company ever has to purchase a game publisher, only to license out the streaming rights for its shiny new library to a third party, sounds like an odd decision on the face of it. That said, such a deal was probably necessary in order for the acquisition to be approved in some markets in the first place.
Not too long ago, regulators in the UK blocked the Microsoft acquisition on the grounds that allowing the deal to go through would give Microsoft’s streaming platform an unfair advantage against competing services. Microsoft being able to say that they have not given themselves an unfair advantage by licensing out the streaming rights to famous franchises like Call of Duty to Ubisoft is likely to be what pushes the deal over the line towards becoming accepted by some regulation authorities. We also don’t know how much Ubisoft paid Microsoft for this 15-year deal. Considering the value of some of the IP involved, it’s safe to assume that it’s a pretty substantial amount.
Mind, this doesn’t preclude Activision Blizzard’s games showing up on Xbox Cloud Gaming, or even any streaming service that Sony or Nintendo offer. Ubisoft has been given the right to license the Activision Blizzard library to “cloud gaming companies, service providers, and console makers”, after all. However, it does mean that, contrary to many expectations following the acquisition announcement, Microsoft is not going to have exclusive domain over the Activision Blizzard game library, at least not for a long while.
There is no set timeframe for when we can expect Activision Blizzard games to head to Ubisoft+. This streaming deal doesn’t actually kick in until the acquisition is completed, and it’s tough to say how close that deal is to finalisation. We will have to wait and see how this bombshell announcement impacts the distribution of Activision Blizzard’s library in the coming years.