Xbox's Phil Spencer: We need Candy Crush, not Call of Duty

Phil Spencer Xbox Bethesda Showcase 2022 image
(Image credit: Microsoft)

What you need to know

  • Xbox is in the midst of trying to acquire gaming publisher Activision Blizzard in a $69 billion deal.
  • The deal is being scrutinized surrounding complaints from Sony regarding Call of Duty on PlayStation.
  • In a recent interview, Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer revealed that Call of Duty isn't the main draw for Xbox.
  • In order to remain relevant, Xbox needs mobile gaming franchises like Candy Crush, Call of Duty Mobile, and Diablo Immortal.

One of the largest purchases in video games history is the ongoing acquisition of Activision Blizzard by Xbox, underneath the Microsoft umbrella. The deal, worth nearly $69 billion, would see Xbox gain control of a vast assortment of legendary gaming franchises like Diablo, Overwatch, World of Warcraft, and — most notably according to players and agencies — Call of Duty. However, this isn't the largest reason Xbox is pursuing this landmark deal, according to Microsoft Gaming CEO and head of Xbox Phil Spencer.

In a recent interview with The Verge, Phil Spencer discussed the Xbox acquisition of Activision Blizzard. The Xbox leader aims to address the widespread and vocal concerns of the gaming community and spoke in-depth on why people are misinterpreting Xbox's intention behind the major move. For the expansive gaming brand, acquiring Activision Blizzard is all about establishing a foothold in the mobile gaming market with titles like Candy Crush.

"In terms of the Activision opportunity — I keep saying this over and over, and it is true — it definitely starts with a view that people want to play games on every device that they have. In a funny way, the smallest screen that we play on is actually the biggest screen when you think about the install base in a phone," Spencer said, highlighting that mobile gaming continues to grow and become a more substantial part of the video games industry, while PC and console remains relatively stagnant.

If Xbox continues to ignore mobile gaming, then that persistent trend could become detrimental for the brand as a whole. Spencer stated, "That’s just a place where if we don’t gain relevancy as a gaming brand, over time the business will become untenable." The greatest Xbox games also need to include mobile titles that meet players where they are.

Activision Blizzard is actually comprised of three major publishers, with mobile gaming behemoth King often overlooked by gamers and media. However, King is the team behind the Candy Crush franchise, which single-handedly brings in more revenue than all of Activision Blizzard combined. While Call of Duty is one of the world's most successful and profitable franchises, with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 crossing $1 billion in sales in less than two weeks, it's still dwarfed by free-to-play mobile titles. Activision Blizzard itself has successful mobile games in Call of Duty Mobile and Diablo Immortal.

Task Force 141 Operator Gaz from Modern Warfare 2 and Warzone 2.0

(Image credit: Activision)

"Yes, the idea that Activision is all about Call of Duty on console is a construct that might get created by our console competitor and maybe some players out there," Spencer went on to say. He later admitted that he wasn't referring to Nintendo, insinuating that Sony is to blame for increased speculation amidst complaints to regulators about the deal, despite knowing that Sony won't lose Call of Duty to Xbox.

While all of Activision Blizzard holds value to Xbox, it was never Spencer's intention to rip one of the most profitable cross-platform franchises from one of the largest console platforms. "Our model is we want to be where players are, especially with franchises the size of Minecraft and Call of Duty. I think our Minecraft history is coming up on eight, nine years and it shows in practice how we will support our customers. That’s what I want to do with Call of Duty," Spencer said.

It makes no sense for Xbox to make Call of Duty an Xbox exclusive, when titles like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 continue to be huge successes precisely because they're available on more than one platform. Instead, the franchise will be treated like Minecraft, with it and its spin-off titles being made available practically everywhere it's possible to play video games.

Spencer hopes to provide additional value to Xbox players by installing Call of Duty in the company's value-driven Xbox Game Pass subscription service, but this wouldn't detract from the quality of Call of Duty on PlayStation. "In terms of the impact that we have on competition, I want to be more competitive in gaming, not less competitive. At some level that will mean you have an impact on the other players that are ahead of you in the race. I think that’s almost the definition of competition," Spencer said of regulators' concerns that the Activision Blizzard deal harms Sony.

Spencer continued by stating, "Almost by definition, there is give and take in market share and other things when we’re competing with other companies. In terms of players, I look at whether we can bring benefit to the players in the gaming market through this deal. I think we can." In conclusion: Call of Duty isn't leaving PlayStation, Xbox wants to invest more in mobile gaming, and Candy Crush is far bigger than most people realize.

Zachary Boddy
Staff Writer

Zachary Boddy (They / Them) is a Staff Writer primarily focused on covering the latest news, the best Xbox and PC games, and the most interesting hardware. They have been gaming and writing for most of their life, and have been with Windows Central and its sister sites since 2019. While originally brought on to write about all things Minecraft, Zachary has since expanded to write about practically everything that Windows Central covers. You can find Zachary on Twitter @BoddyZachary.