As part of Microsoft's ongoing efforts to convince regulatory agencies that its planned acquisition of Activision Blizzard is a good idea, it has now announced 10-year partnerships with a couple of streaming platforms you might not have encountered before: Boosteroid and Ubitus.
A quick recap: Sony is not thrilled with the idea of Microsoft owning Activision Blizzard, largely because of worries that it will make the Call of Duty series exclusive to Xbox consoles. To counter those concerns, Microsoft offered Sony a 10-year deal (opens in new tab) to keep the series on PlayStation, a proposal that Sony rejected. To demonstrate its seriousness, Microsoft then went about setting up 10-year Call of Duty agreements with various other big-time players in the business, including Steam (opens in new tab), Nintendo, and Nvidia (opens in new tab).
That is reportedly having a positive effect (opens in new tab) with EU regulators, but Microsoft isn't easing off the gas just yet. But with the major platforms (minus Sony) now accounted for, it's now taking aim at smaller-scale operators, like streaming platform Boosteroid (opens in new tab), which on March 14 announced an agreement to bring Xbox PC games to its platform—including Activision-Blizzard games once the acquisition is complete—and Ubitus (opens in new tab), which unveiled a similar deal today.
Both companies are well established: Ubitus, which is based in Japan, was founded in 2013, while the Ukrainian Boosteroid has been around since 2016. But it's fair to say that, in terms of reach and awareness, they're not in the same league as GeForce Now or Xbox Live. Even so, they're getting the big time treatment from Microsoft executives including Xbox boss Phil Spencer and Microsoft president Brad Smith.
Players deserve more choice than they have now when it comes their favorite games. Today we've signed a 10-year deal with @Boosteroid_main enabling players to stream Xbox PC games, including Activision Blizzard PC titles like CoD following after close https://t.co/Xso6ykadw1March 14, 2023
Smith went so far as to tout the geopolitical impact of the Boosteroid deal on Twitter, calling it "a victory for Ukraine and the many talented software developers who work there." To be fair, so did Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine's Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Digital Transformation.
"Microsoft partnering with Boosteroid is welcome news and further evidence of the company’s ongoing support for Ukraine," Fedorov said in a statement. "Boosteroid’s Ukrainian dev team has built a world-class streaming platform under the most challenging circumstances and demonstrates the ingenuity and creativity of our citizens and local game developers."(opens in new tab)
That comment is especially interesting: Ukraine is currently vying for membership in the European Union, and visible support for Ukrainian business and industry in the face of an ongoing Russian invasion, probably won't hurt Microsoft's chances of having the Activision-Blizzard acquisition approved by the EU.
The Ubitus contract doesn't have a comparable "foreign affairs" context, but Smith left no room for doubt about what the deal means for Microsoft. "With each step, it's even clearer that Microsoft's acquisition of Activision will bring Call of Duty to more players on more platforms," he tweeted (opens in new tab). "With more choices for everyone."
There will likely be more deals with relatively unknown platforms to come, at least until the CMA and FTC throw their thumbs-up on the Activision Blizzard takeover, as Sony shows no signs of giving up the fight: Last week it issued a statement to the CMA implying that Microsoft might outright sabotage future Call of Duty releases on PlayStation (opens in new tab) consoles in order to convince gamers to make the switch to Xbox.