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What just happened? As Microsoft finalizes a significant expansion of PC Game Pass, a recent tweet from the head of the Xbox division has sparked speculation that PC games might come to the company's cloud gaming service. The move could be an effort to match Nvidia's service and assuage the concerns of international regulators over its Activision Blizzard acquisition.
In a Tuesday tweet, Xbox head Phil Spencer announced that if Microsoft's $69 billion deal to acquire Activision Blizzard closes, it will bring the publisher's PC games to UK mobile service EE. The words are significant because EE offers customers access to Xbox Cloud Gaming, and Microsoft currently doesn't include PC-exclusive games on its cloud service.
Thus far, Xbox Cloud Gaming only has titles with Xbox versions. Users play all cloud games with either a controller or a touch screen. Mouse and keyboard support is still in testing for games like Microsoft Flight Simulator.
Microsoft and @EE are expanding our partnership with a 10-year commitment in cloud gaming to bring PC games built by Activision Blizzard, following the acquisition, and Xbox to @EE customers. We are committed to bring more games to more people, however they choose to play.- Phil Spencer (@XboxP3) April 11, 2023
Were Microsoft to acquire Activision Blizzard, it's a given that all Game Pass options would quickly include titles like Call of Duty and Diablo while PC Game Pass could gain StarCraft and WarCraft. The latter two PC exclusives wouldn't usually come to Xbox Cloud Gaming, but the EE deal makes it seem possible. Theoretically, the shift could impact current PC-only Game Pass content like Europa Universalis IV, Dune: Spice Wars, Total War, or the original Fallout.
The EE agreement follows Microsoft's February announcement to bring its games to Nvidia's GeForce Now cloud service, including Activision Blizzard titles. The deal follows Sony's repeated claims that Microsoft would restrict games like Call of Duty to Xbox and Game Pass were it to finalize the acquisition. Microsoft adding PC games to the cloud would further counter Sony's argument and put the Redmond, Washington company in more direct competition with GeForce Now.
On the same day as Spencer's tweet, Microsoft announced that PC Game Pass is now open to everyone in 40 additional countries throughout Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. These countries gained entry into an Xbox Insider program in February, which was successful enough to progress to public release.
Microsoft doesn't appear to officially sell Xbox consoles in any of the new PC Game Pass regions, which include Egypt, Ukraine, Peru, El Salvador, Cyprus, Iceland, and many more. Thus, these countries are likely receiving Xbox services for the first time. The announcement didn't mention cloud gaming, but the new territories could include it if Microsoft brings PC titles to the cloud.