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Microsoft loosens grip on app store in shadow of Activision Blizzard deal

In order to avoid regulatory scrutiny in the wake of the Activision Blizzard acquisition, Microsoft will be relaxing some of the rules set up for its app store.

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Microsoft and the Xbox team made some serious headlines last month with the surprise announcement that the tech giant would be acquiring publisher Activision Blizzard. The move sent shockwaves through the industry and left developers, media, and fans wondering about the future of certain franchises and how the business side of things would shake out. In light of extra potential scrutiny from regulators investigating the legality of the Activision Blizzard deal, Microsoft is pledging to loosen restrictions for third parties looking to offer software through its app store.

Microsoft is no stranger to regulatory oversight as it was forced to alter its business practices many years ago in relation to how it shipped its own Internet Explorer web browser as the default option for Windows operating system installations. With the Xbox brand already positioned as one of the giants of the industry, adding in the influence carried by Activision Blizzard’s holdings could leave Microsoft in danger of being broken up to avoid a potential monopoly.

To assuage the fears of regulators and to demonstrate an active willingness to play fair, Microsoft explained some future changes to how it handles business on the Microsoft Store. The blog post goes over plans that will allow developers to use third-party payment processing for in-app purchases. Microsoft also pledged to abstain from using customer data to compete against rival developers using the Microsoft Store and will not require developers to give the Microsoft Store favorable terms over other vendors.

There is no doubt that Microsoft (along with just about everyone else in the technology space) has been watching the ongoing battle between Apple and Epic Games. As control over app storefronts is further consolidated in the hands of the few megacorporations, government oversight may be the only thing keeping the dream of a free market for app purchases alive.

Contributing Tech Editor

Chris Jarrard likes playing games, crankin' tunes, and looking for fights on obscure online message boards. He understands that breakfast food is the only true food. Don't @ him.

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