UK's CMA Shows a Disconnect with Technology in Blocking Microsoft-Activision Blizzard Acquisition
Yesterday, the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) blocked Microsoft's acquisition of Activision Blizzard, citing several reasons in a 418-page final report. Among these reasons, the CMA referenced the Nintendo Switch, stating that it is not "technically capable" of running a Call of Duty (CoD) game. This assumption has been met with widespread criticism and highlights the authority's lack of understanding of the technological capabilities of modern gaming consoles.
Specifically stating in their report:
"Nintendo does not currently offer CoD, and we have seen no evidence to suggest that its consoles would be technically capable of running a version of CoD that is similar to those in Xbox and PlayStation in terms of quality of gameplay and content."
The CMA blocked the acquisition due to concerns about its impact on the fast-growing cloud gaming market. One of the proposals that arose during the acquisition talks was Microsoft's 10-year commitment to bring CoD games to the Nintendo Switch. The CMA, however, dismissed this proposal, stating that the Switch would not be able to provide an experience on par with that of Xbox and PlayStation.
CMA's (Lacking) Understanding of Technology
The CMA's statement has sparked backlash, as it appears to be completely out of touch with the gaming industry's technological capabilities. This 'authority' seems to be unaware of a crucial aspect of game development known as "optimization". Optimizing a game for a specific platform involves adjusting the game's settings and, in some cases, altering the game engine to ensure it runs smoothly on the target hardware.
Optimizing Call of Duty for Switch
The CMA's assertion that the Nintendo Switch cannot run a CoD game similar in quality to its Xbox and PlayStation counterparts is shortsighted. By optimizing the game, Microsoft could potentially create a version of CoD specifically tailored for the Switch. They've even proved to be able to do such a thing before - See Call of Duty: Ghosts on the Wii U as exhibit A. This would involve toning down the settings or even modifying the game engine to allow for a smooth gameplay experience that is still comparable to that of other platforms.
...Yet Even More Examples
The gaming industry has already seen numerous instances of successful game optimizations for the Nintendo Switch. For example, Doom (2016) and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, both graphically demanding games, were optimized to run on the Switch with minimal impact on gameplay quality. These examples demonstrate that it is entirely possible for a game like CoD to be adapted for the Nintendo Switch with the right development efforts.
So Now What?
The UK Competition and Markets Authority's decision to block the Microsoft-Activision Blizzard acquisition reveals a significant disconnect with the gaming industry's technological landscape. The CMA's stance on the Nintendo Switch's capabilities shows a lack of understanding of the potential of game optimization. By dismissing the possibility of a CoD game on the Switch, the CMA not only undermines the potential of modern game development but also misses the opportunity to explore how the acquisition could have positively impacted the gaming landscape. This reasoning is so ridiculously out-of-touch with reality that it makes me think that they were grasping at straws to block the acquisition... and so far, it's working.