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Microsoft outlines app-store principles ahead of Activision regulatory reviews

Microsoft is looking to get ahead of the expected tough regulatory process for its Activision Blizzard acquisition by emphasizing how it plans to make its Store policies more fair and transparent.
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Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft is trying to get ahead of anticipated tough regulatory scrutiny of its $68.7 billion Activision Blizzard acquisition by going public with a set of "Open App Store Principles." These principles will apply to the Microsoft Store on Windows and to next-generation game marketplaces that it builds, according to a February 9 blog post by President and Vice Chair Brad Smith.

In addition to trying to appease those in favor of greater big-tech regulation, "the principles we're adopting today will also ensure we're providing the best possible experience for creators and customers of all sizes," Smith said. "These principles are grounded in-app store legislation being considered by governments around the world, including by the United States, the European Union, the Republic of Korea, the Netherlands, and elsewhere."

Microsoft also is looking to make its Store rules look better in comparison to those from Apple and Google.

The updated set of principles, which build on Microsoft's existing principles for the Store on Windows dating back to 2020:

Quality, Safety, Security & Privacy

1. We will enable all developers to access our app store as long as they meet reasonable and transparent standards for quality and safety.
2. We will continue to protect the consumers and gamers who use our app store, ensuring that developers meet our standards for security.
3. We will continue to respect the privacy of consumers in our app stores, giving them controls to manage their data and how it is used.

Accountability

4. We will hold our own apps to the same standards we hold competing apps.
5. We will not use any non-public information or data from our app store to compete with developers' apps.

Fairness and Transparency

6. We will treat apps equally in our app store without unreasonable preferencing or ranking of our apps or our business partners' apps over others.
7. We will be transparent about rules for promotion and marketing in our app store and apply these consistently and objectively.

Developer Choice

8. We will not require developers in our app store to use our payment system to process in-app payments.
9. We will not require developers in our app store to provide more favorable terms in our app store than in other app stores.
10. We will not disadvantage developers if they choose to use a payment processing system other than ours or if they offer different terms and conditions in other app stores.
11. We will not prevent developers from communicating directly with their customers through their apps for legitimate business purposes, such as pricing terms and product or service offerings.

Smith said Microsoft plans to continue to let developers choose whether they want their apps to be available through the Microsoft Store, another company's store, or sideloaded directly from the Internet. And the company will enable Windows users to use alternative app stores and third-party apps, including by changing default settings in appropriate categories," he added.

He reiterated that Microsoft will continue to make Call of Duty and other popular Activision Blizzard titles available on Sony's PlayStation through the term of any existing agreement with Activision and beyond. He said Microsoft wants to take similar steps with Nintendo.

Smith noted that Microsoft is adapting its business model so that these principles apply to the store on the Xbox console. Starting today, Principles 1 through 7 will apply to the Xbox console and the others will do so over time.

Microsoft officials have projected that if/when the Activision deal gets regulatory approval, it may not do so until mid-2023. Microsoft officials have said that if the deal happens, Microsoft will "only" be the third-largest gaming company by revenue, behind Sony and Tencent.

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