Bonus Round: Microstopped

Happy Friday Saturday, everyone! Welcome to Bonus Round, a look at some of the week’s biggest gaming stories. This week, Microsoft’s acquisition of Activison was rudely stopped in its tracks by British regulators. There are some other fun tidbits of news, too. Let’s get into it!

Microsoft Xbox game streaming

CMA blocks Microsoft’s Activision purchase

Microsoft shocked the world in January 2022 when it announced plans to purchase Activision Blizzard, the mega publisher behind Call of Duty and World of Warcraft. A deal this huge, to the tune of $68.7 billion, was always going to take a long time to close. For the last year, competitors like Sony and regulatory bodies have subjected Microsoft’s plans to intense scrutiny. Now, the software giant might have met an obstacle it won’t be able to overcome.

Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced on Wednesday that it was blocking Microsoft’s purchase of Activision. In its 418 page report (!), the CMA’s concerns focused mainly on the emerging cloud gaming market. Xbox has something of a stranglehold on this space, accounting for 60-70% of the market per the CMA’s estimations.

Competitors like Stadia have come and gone quickly, and Amazon’s Luna service is lagging behind. Microsoft taking ownership of all of Activision Blizzard’s content, with the possibility of it becoming Xbox exclusive, could ensure that no other cloud gaming service could ever realistically compete with Xbox Cloud Gaming.

Look, I’ll level with you. I scraped a B in GCSE Business Studies, I don’t understand the stock market, and the machinations of giant corporate takeovers are beyond me. I don’t really know know how this is going to go now. Reuters has a good rundown of what could happen next; for one, Microsoft has already stated its intent to appeal the CMA’s decision. The merger isn’t dead in the water, but Microsoft is going to face a much tougher road from here on out.

And I, for one, am a bit relieved. As a Game Pass subscriber, I was of course excited to get dozens of new games added to my library. But as a fan of gaming in general, I’ve never been thrilled by the potential deal. I’m uncomfortable with a titan like Microsoft buying their way into a content library and reducing competition; I prefer when more companies make the stuff I like, not fewer! And so too does the CMA, it seems.

Horizon 3 confirmed

Horizon Forbidden West was one of the biggest hits of last year, selling over 10 million copies. So it wasn’t surprising at all to learn this week that the next chapter in Aloy’s story is already in development.

There wasn’t an announcement as such; at least, not specifically about Horizon 3. Developer Guerrilla Games announced some staffing changes in a blog post, brought about by studio director Angie Smets moving to a new role as Head of Development Strategy at PlayStation studios. She’s the latest Guerrilla alum to make a similar move, following former managing director Herman Hulst becoming president of SIE Worldwide Studios in November 2019.

Buried in the bottom paragraph is a reference to ‘expanding the world of Horizon with Aloy’s next adventure and our exciting online project’… and that’s it! There are no other details at all to speak of. That being said, Guerrilla confirmed not only Horizon 3 there, but also the long-rumoured Horizon MMO. I might be wrong (and I refuse to Google it to find out either way), that’s the first time the studio has acknowledged this project. Anyone hoping for news on the bizarrely unnecessary PS5 remaster of Horizon Zero Dawn will be disappointed; that game is yet to be confirmed.

I found a lot to enjoy and admire in Forbidden West, but I also found it to be a bloated and unwieldy experience. I’d love to see a smaller, tighter sequel to round out this trilogy, but I expect literally the opposite to happen. Oh well! In the words of the philosopher Jagger, you can’t always get what you want.

Twisted Metal TV show gets a teaser

A teaser trailer for the TV adaptation of Twisted Metal dropped this week. It doesn’t give much away, showing star Anthony Mackie driving a heavily-armed car through a dystopian American landscape. There’s no sign of supporting actor Mike Mitchell (co-host of my favourite podcast Doughboys). But then again, there’s no sign of much else either. This trailer really puts the tease in teaser!

For younger readers, Twisted Metal is a car combat franchise that was most popular in the PS1 and PS2 eras. There hasn’t been a new game in the series since 2012, but I’ve never played it. In fact, I’ve never played any of them. So I’m not super excited for the show itself. I do find it interesting, though, in the wider context of video game adaptations.

That’s because we’re seemingly entering a golden age for film and TV based on games. Uncharted was a modest box office success, and The Last of Us is both hugely popular and critically acclaimed. And speaking of Horizon, there’s a Neftlix adaptation of that on the way too! I wasn’t wild about The Super Mario Bros. Movie but it at least treated its source material with respect. That’s more than you can say for many previous adaptations.

Twisted Metal starts on 27 July on Peacock, one of seemingly a bazillion US streaming services. Peacock has a distribution deal with Sky and NOW, so us UK viewers will likely be able to catch it there. And if you like it enough to check the game out, you’re in luck; a new Twisted Metal game is all but confirmed to be in development.