To get it out of the way, I don’t think there’s any veracity to current rumors swirling around that Microsoft is looking to buy Electronic Arts, which was briefly mentioned in a Polygon article recently. In fact, I hesitate to call them rumors. It’s more a situation of ‘speculation like this pops up frequently in the video game industry among analysts so let’s run with it.’ Still, despite likely being false, it’s caused a lot of people to wonder what would happen if Microsoft were to buy EA—or Valve or PUBG Corp.—like the article suggests. This piece is meant to be more of “here’s my opinion on the speculation floating about, now let’s hear yours.” Because why not.
Microsoft’s no stranger to spending big money. The company paid $26.2 billion to acquire LinkedIn and it purchased Minecraft for $2.5 billion. Purchasing EA would be one of its most expensive ventures as the company is valued at around $35 billion. It’s a hell of an investment if it were to ever happen, but not entirely out of the realm of possibility in terms of money. What makes it more unlikely, in my opinion, are the logistics of acquiring such a company and what it would mean for Xbox.
In terms of public perception, EA had a horrific year in 2017. The company was virtually crucified for its implementation of microtransactions in Star Wars Battlefront II, to the point where it caught the attention of lawmakers around the world. Disney CEO Bob Iger allegedly expressed his displeasure with EA in order to try and quell the controversy. For Microsoft to purchase EA—a company that was previously named “Worst Company in America” twice in a row—it would mean losing a lot of trust from its customers, though of course Microsoft has made unpopular decisions in the past. But the Xbox division has fought tooth and nail to gain back good will since its botched reveal of the Xbox One. It doesn’t need anything to hurt its perception even more.
EA is one of the largest video game companies in America, potentially giving Microsoft access to dozens of some of the most best-selling series around the world. EA publishes franchises like FIFA, Dead Space, Battlefield, Titanfall, Dragon Age, Mass Effect, Madden NFL—you get the idea. It also has the rights to exclusively publish Star Wars games through 2023 thanks to a partnership with Disney in 2013. Microsoft having control over all of those properties is almost unthinkable. Minecraft is still published on almost any platform that can play video games even after being acquired by Microsoft, so it’s hard to imagine any of the aforementioned series would become Xbox exclusives all of the sudden, though some like Titanfall and Mass Effect started out that way. Personally, I don’t see how Microsoft would handle the distribution of everything.
On top of that, an argument could be made that an acquisition like that comes close to breaking antitrust laws. I’m not at all qualified to confidently speak on the subject, but it always seems to be brought up when larger companies merge or acquire one another, like when Disney bought 21st Century Fox in December. Whether or not it violates actual laws, the optics surrounding it aren’t good, especially with EA’s reputation.
That’s my two cents on the subject. What do you think would happen if Microsoft were to hypothetically buy EA? Would you even want it to happen? Let us know in the comments.