Talking Points: Will You Care if Microsoft Buys EA?


Earlier this week, our own Poorna Shankar penned a nice little rant about the rumor EA may soon be bought up by Microsoft in a bid to strengthen the XBOX library of exclusives.  In this week’s Talking Points column, we GameSpace writers are taking it upon ourselves to dive even further into the topic and offer our own consumer-focused and industry pundit points of view. Buckle up.

Bill’s Thoughts

Let’s say I’m a diehard Xbox fan. How would the idea of my console company of choice buying up one of the largest gaming publishers in the world sit with me? I mean, we’re talking about a company that was recently deemed one of the country’s most HATED.  Let that sink in. I don’t think I’d be screaming and jumping for joy, unless all I really loved about EA was Madden. And yes, I think there are plenty that this matters to. That’s a whole other hurdle too. What happens to EA’s exclusive rights if Microsoft buys them? Star Wars? NFL? Do they just go along for the ride until contracts are up?

PC gamers may be the least affected here, as they’d still likely see games released on Origin and the Windows 10 stores. This move, if it happened, is to strengthen the console division’s portfolio. A massive boon it will be if the only licensed NFL football game becomes a Windows 10 and Xbox exclusive.  It also means that the highly popular Battlefield games go over to the Xbox. Star Wars games too. BioWare games too. See why it matters? It’s not good for consumers, and even as a PC gamer first and foremost, as a Switch and PS4 owner I’d be pretty pissed to see this sort of “gobbling up” become the norm.

Kelley’s Thoughts

Our household has always been PC dominant followed by Xbox, recently PS4 and Switch. Platforms don’t really matter to us but cross-platform does. With this in mind, I cannot see this merge being beneficial for EA who have games on both Xbox and PlayStation platforms, which leads me to consider what Microsoft might benefit from most.

In the current market, Microsoft may benefit most from buying titles more than companies. PUBG would be a good move for Microsoft if Sea of Thieves is any indication how well they can support a popular title.

PUBG Desert Map Vehicle

As a consumer, I’m all about convenience as long as quality (of content, security, and business) isn’t lost. Testing Sea of Thieves since alpha, I appreciate how quick it is to locate and update everything. Forums are attached to your in-game account lowering toxicity PLUS Windows 10 to Xbox cross-platform being available at launch makes Microsoft super user-friendly. If this any indication of the way every game rolls out with Microsoft I am all for it, whatever game (not company) that may be.

Ethan’s Thoughts

My initial gut reaction to the rumor was something along the lines of – well, it’s not like EA is going to get any worse. As true as this may initially seem, it doesn’t mean the relationship won’t work in the other direction.

As a PC Gamer, I can’t help but think back to Microsoft’s former forays into DRM and distribution platforms like the much-reviled Games for Windows Live, which was mercifully unsuccessful. Bringing the clout and library of a publisher like EA in-house would presumably help to make future endeavors into PC games distribution much more effective – and I’m not sure that’s something that would work out in favor of consumers. Microsoft seems to want badly to clamp down on the Windows 10 ecosystem by funneling distribution revenues through the baked-into-the-OS Microsoft Store, and this would be a big step towards accomplishing that on the PC gaming side.

It seems these days everything is being rolled under some corporate umbrella or the other. With Disney in control of Marvel and Lucasfilm and setting its sights on Fox, and Amazon continuing to probe its tendrils into any industry that gives off the aroma of currency, Microsoft assuming direct control of EA feels like just another bump on the highway to the new normal. At some point, we might want to start looking for an exit.

Mass Effect Andromeda multiplayer

Rob’s Thoughts

It’s good for Microsoft but bad for the consumer. Any time you limit the distribution of a product to a segment of the market it’s anti-consumer. Full stop.

Steven’s Thoughts

Good People, my colleagues here are going to tell you, that purchasing a big development studio and publisher like EA is bad for consumers. First, let’s take into consideration that EA wasn’t the only company on the “To Be Sold to Microsoft Auction Block”. We had PUBG, Valve, and EA in the mix.  What my colleagues deign to realize good people, is that Microsoft has severely restructured its cross-platform ideology over the past several years.

A great example is what they’ve done with Minecraft.  When they purchased Mojang, you would believe that Microsoft would have held Minecraft for a hefty ransom, hoarding it like the pot of gold that it turned out to be.  Instead, they opened Minecraft up not just to other consoles, but they pushed it into the realm of cross-platform play.

Now I’m not saying you should take my word that Microsoft has turned the corner on exclusives entirely.  On the contrary, Microsoft NEEDS those exclusives.  But even in the case of their most prized exclusives, they have still pushed them as playable PC releases.  We are in the dawn of a new age my brethren. An age where Super Mario appears on the mobile platform. An age where Xbox and PC gamers can not only play their respective games on their favorite platforms but an age where they can play together!

Fear not my flock of gamers, as consumers, any purchase from Microsoft will not leave us out in the lonely cold! Providence is at hand! May you not lie fearful in the hands of Microsoft, for Microsoft has shown no ill will in its endeavors. Be it safer these companies in the hands of Microsoft, than left to another company with a more devious track record. That’s what I always say, and I’m sticking to it. Amen.

Battlefield 1

Joseph’s Thoughts

As I discussed with Shank on our weekly podcast, Gaming the Industry, last week, the idea of Microsoft buying EA and it being good for consumers and the industry as a whole is thoroughly asinine. Now, simply buying EA, or Valve or any other of these major companies taken at face value doesn’t necessarily mean anything bad at first glance. Indeed, Microsoft does have a history of buying companies and treating them with the same level of freedom they had before (see Mojang), but they also have a history of buying companies and stripping them of the individuality that made them desirable in the first place (see Lionhead and Rare).

Microsoft buying EA doesn’t automatically mean anything nefarious or intrinsically bad is guaranteed to happen. However, that should not stop us, as media and those with the responsibility to inform the consumer on what this could potentially mean for them, from speculating all scenarios.

The most common example people give is the level of freedom Microsoft recently has given to Mojang – a developer and not a multi-national, multi-company publisher with multiple games and studios under its belt. I don’t think you can directly compare Mojang’s success under Microsoft as a precursor to a possible EA buyout. Sure, we can look to Minecraft and point out how Microsoft has worked with companies like Sony and Nintendo to continue to support their game on the competing platforms. But one game does not a perfect example make.

EA has multiple big-name games and franchises under its belt: Madden, Dragon Age, Mass Effect, Battlefield, The Sims and more. It’s incredibly easy to sit here and say that Microsoft, in the interest in serving all gaming fans would continue to let these big-ticket franchises to sell across all of our consoles with no issue. However, I feel it’s more likely that Microsoft would force some sort of timed or even permanent exclusivity on these titles.


Microsoft is a business. A business’s number one goal is to make money for the business, not the competition. So from that purely monetary point of view, it would be tempting for Spencer and the Xbox team to make a game like Madden exclusive to Xbox platforms, much like Sony has with MLB titles. If they choose to allow these games to appear on Nintendo or Sony platforms, it would likely be a modicum of exclusivity, a la Rise of the Tomb Raider style. At the end of the day practices like these only hurt the industry. It hurts consumers purely by restricting access to games based on the box they bought and not any real technical limitation hindering its release, and it weakens the overall market.

Keep in mind too – if Microsoft were to buy EA, that means all of EA’s developers are essentially Microsoft first-party devs. History doesn’t have very many examples of first party studios developing for another platform while still under the parent company.

Now, does this mean that’s how Microsoft will handle EA if the rumors come to fruition? Who knows, maybe, maybe not. However, it’s not the type of situation we should hope to find ourselves in as consumers and media.

In the end, regardless of track record, we should be wary of potential situations that hinder the overall growth of the industry, but more importantly, have the potential to hurt consumers in the long run. For a major company like Microsoft to purchase EA, if it happens, the only situations we might find ourselves in are ones where consumers lose. I hope I’m wrong.

Randy’s Thoughts

How it works out for the consumer depends on how far Microsoft takes the exclusives and how willing they are to make cross-platform work. Will they push out Sony and Nintendo entirely? I don’t think so because they can make sales on those platforms. A smart Microsoft would follow the playbook of Sony and capitalize on certain key exclusives and then tie-ins to the Windows 10 store.

Microsoft has already shown they’re willing to make cross-platform work in a way that neither Sony or Nintendo have been willing to embrace. For example, they publish Killer Instinct as an Xbox, Windows 10, and Steam title where all on those platforms can play together. They’ve also taken Minecraft in a great direction making it ubiquitous on nearly every platform available.

The one disconnect I see is that people expect Microsoft to play by an entirely different ruleset than Sony or Nintendo who both rely heavily on exclusivity. Nintendo even takes this to the furthest extreme by making their titles exclusive to their newest hardware platform and requiring users to repurchase titles they’ve previously owned on their WiiU or DS. Microsoft would likely embrace exclusives, but certainly no more so than Sony or Nintendo who’ve been given a pass for this sort of activity.

Nintendo Switch

What I’d like to see Microsoft leverage is pushing cross-platform play onto Sony and Nintendo and making it so if they want those titles on their platform they have to ensure it will work cross-platform with Xbox, Win10, and Steam.

Timmy’s Thoughts

I’m never happy when competition decreases. I see competition as the fuel for innovation in the free market and we are living in a time when we might just see one ring to rule them all (Walmazon? Amazart?). That’s a dangerous thing for consumers but this is less about me. Considering there were rumors not long ago about them abandoning the Xbox entirely this strikes me as a positive for Xbox fans in terms of continued support. It’s also a positive in terms of the exclusives war which Xbox has been badly losing. Even more its a positive in terms of rebuilding EA into a company Xbox fans might not hate. EA needs a serious rebrand and this might do it for them. One thing to note is I keep saying Xbox fans. For fans of EA (look at their latest sales there are plenty contrary to what the internet likes to think) it’s a negative unless they buy an Xbox.

Mitch’s Thoughts

I personally dream of a world where one company, be it Microsoft or someone else, controls the exclusivity of titles. And I’m not talking about a scenario where the said company takes the high road, using this control to help drive cross-platform play. Instead, I would prefer they tighten the grip on an ever-growing list of exclusive titles, allowing me to finally focus on a single gaming platform, or at least narrowing it down to PC and one console.

Madden NFL 18

Console wars and exclusivity have done nothing but limit my gaming enjoyment. To play all the games I fancy, I have to pick up multiple consoles each generation cycle or I miss out. It annoys the hell out of me that I am forced to purchase what is basically redundant hardware for 99% of the games out there just so I can play the other 1%. On what other item are you required to do this? I don’t have to buy two cars, one to drive on city streets and another to drive on highways. I don’t pick up a phone from a second carrier just to get that last 1% of coverage. Ok, I do have dress shoes and sneakers, so there’s that.

For those who are trying to use the “But having a monopoly on exclusive titles would kill competition, and competition drives innovation,” sorry, but in this case you are wrong. Focusing on a single platform means resources aren’t wasted making virtually identical variants of the same product. It also means time can be spent learning more of the nuances of a single piece of hardware instead of diluting knowledge. The result is a better end product for me to enjoy without increasing development costs.

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