Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard is industry transforming—accelerating the momentum toward global subscription gaming across all devices and becoming an entertainment IP powerhouse.

Activision’s ‘toxic culture’ distress was acute and couldn’t be solved—Microsoft will (and should) clean up a tarnished organisation. The troubles had hammered Activision’s share price, allowing Microsoft to pick up world-class IP at a bargain relative to year-ago prices.

Sony faces a harsh reckoning on its long-term strategy for PlayStation, while EA and Ubisoft have become desirable acquisition targets.

Ongoing supply difficulties for PlayStation and Xbox through 2022 and beyond will result in the install base for the generation being permanently impacted. It raises the question: if you can’t buy a console are they even relevant?

VR will stage a comeback this year, as Quest 2 has its highest sales ever, the category will find new appeal from game (and metaverse) developers. If a rumoured Apple VR/AR headset eventuates, expect white-hot interest

Netflix will make strides in its games service―but mostly behind the scenes to deliver a once in a decade transformation of the industry. Don’t rule out a critical and exclusive mobile hit

Google has lost its appeal of the European Commission’s antitrust ruling of 2017 that it had abused its position in general search to favour Google Shopping, its Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) channel for merchants, in relation to price comparison aggregators. 

Since the case was lodged in 2010, price comparison has receded as the key to consumers’ online purchases, also motivated by influencers, reviews, and browsing. Merchants use YouTube and Instagram to build brands, Facebook to launch products, and Google Shopping as the key alternative to Amazon for direct response.

The EU’s antitrust regime has once more solved yesterday’s problem, but this will shift for Big Tech to an ex-ante regime when the landmark Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act come on-stream.

 

Facebook has been caught unawares by the significant impacts of privacy changes to its advertising revenue, posting an uncharacteristic quarterly decline as its costs are set to spiral

Facebook’s ageing user demographics are a long-standing and growing issue, as competitor platforms erode Facebook’s attraction to the young. Recent negative PR only compounds a brewing problem of relevance as social media shifts towards being content, rather than network-driven

By pinning its name to the metaverse, Facebook hopes to redefine its narrative and claim the benefits of managing the platform of the future, but significant challenges in the entertainment, enterprise, and tech spheres stand in its way

Apple’s latest software update continues its drive to limit the data that can be collected about iPhone users as they browse the internet. Prior changes have had an effect on ad prices for publishers, and on advertiser results

The new changes target cornerstones of profiling and targeting: IP and email addresses. The impact will be gradual, but could be profound if takeup is high

The lesson for publishers is that no technical implementation of targeted advertising is safe. Layering third-party data on top of anonymous audiences is not a future-proof business model

Netflix’s decision to launch games as part of the subscription bundle is smart business: rewarding current subscribers, leveraging its IP, and signalling that subscription is the best long-term revenue model in the games space. 

Expect technological innovation to be central to Netflix’s ambitions with games. Netflix will make it easier for different game experiences to occur, and ways to attract external developers will inevitably follow. 

For Disney, Netflix just made the battle for customers more difficult and more expensive.  Disney will need to make hard decisions about how to approach the games business—something it has shown before it finds difficult to do. 

Amazon has been criticised by commentators, governments and sellers for giving its own products an unfair advantage on its online storefront, which millions of sellers depend on for discovery

This line of attack misses the point of Amazon’s business, which is to operate marketplaces and extract profits from suppliers through fees and services. This model raises its own questions about competition and fair trading, but self-preferencing is not core

Amazon's strategy needs both buyers and sellers, but it needs to focus on the experience for customers as the foundation of its market power

Epic Games, maker of mega-hit Fortnite, sued Apple over alleged antitrust violations around App Store rules and Apple’s 30% tax on in-app transactions. A decision could come soon, though it will be contested on appeal.

The implications of the case could be far-reaching, as Apple and other tech companies like Google design their platforms to extract high-margin revenue from the transactions they facilitate, including news subscriptions: a five-year basic in-app subscription to The Times costs £885, of which Apple takes £158. 

It comes in the context of a flurry of debate and decisions around tech antitrust and consumer protection: new laws may ultimately be needed, but regulators in the US and UK are proving they can be creative with their existing tools. 

Apple is bringing in privacy changes on iOS that could hurt ad-funded apps. 

Responding to platforms’ legitimate push for user privacy is a trial for regulators in the midst of building new online antitrust regimes. 

Antitrust rulings are chipping away at the App Store’s stringent terms of use, but reforms will keep it at the centre of the iOS universe.