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The backstory: A mobile gaming store is a place where you can buy and download games for your phone. Right now, the big players in this scene are Apple's App Store for iPhones and Google Play for Androids. Microsoft also has a role with its Xbox Game Pass, offering a bunch of games for mobile play.
Microsoft teased the idea of a "next-gen store" last year, right after talking about buying Activision Blizzard. This Xbox mobile store would challenge Apple and Google in mobile gaming, using titles from Activision Blizzard, like Call of Duty: Mobile, and Candy Crush Saga, made by game developer King.
More recently: Earlier this year, Microsoft made its Game Pass subscription service available for PC gamers in 40 new countries, which scored it a 7% increase in customers. It also spent US$69 billion to buy Activision Blizzard. That deal finally wrapped up in October after regulatory scrutiny had been holding it up for nearly two years. But the delay messed up Microsoft's plans to quickly roll out its mobile store plans.
The development: Microsoft Xbox chief Phil Spencer just announced big plans for moving ahead with this new mobile gaming store. He revealed during an interview at the CCXP comics and entertainment convention in Sao Paulo that the company’s talking to partners to help launch it. While he didn't give the exact launch date, Spencer emphasized how crucial this move is for Microsoft's strategy. He also hinted that it might happen sooner than expected, maybe even next year.
Spencer highlighted specific markets that caught the company’s eye – Peru and Costa Rica, which make up almost half of new signups in the 11 Latin American countries out of the 40 that got access to PC Game Pass back in February. Brazil is also a global standout, securing the second-largest market share for the PC Game Pass. Even though Microsoft is trailing in the Brazilian mobile sector, Spencer stressed its importance, especially with Activision's mobile gaming success. He even hinted at using user disappointment with other market leaders to get people on board with Microsoft's store, stressing the need for choice in mobile gaming.
But there are some headwinds ahead. Despite growing for years, mobile gaming saw less spending in 2022 – 5% less than the year before, and it's expected to continue the downward trend, according to research from Data.ai. On top of that, there are regulatory battles ongoing, with Epic Games fighting with Apple and Google over how they run their stores. The new EU's Digital Markets Act also recently went into effect, and it may change how app stores work overall.
"It's an important part of our strategy and something we are actively working on today not only alone but talking to other partners who'd also like to see more choice for how they can monetize on the phone," said Xbox chief Phil Spencer in an interview in Sao Paulo during the CCXP comics and entertainment convention.
"We've talked about choice and today on your mobile phones, you don't have choice," said Spencer. "To make sure that Xbox is not only relevant today but for the next 10, 20 years, we're going to have to be strong across many screens."
"We want to be in a position to offer Xbox and content from both us and our third-party partners across any screen where somebody would want to play," said Spencer to the Financial Times in March. "Today, we can't do that on mobile devices, but we want to build towards a world that we think will be coming where those devices are opened up."