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Microsoft Expands Game Pass as Regulators Fret Over Activision Deal

The subscription service, which dominates competing efforts from Sony and Amazon, is moving into dozens of new countries.

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Illustration: Saiman Chow for Bloomberg Businessweek

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The Xbox console has been the key to Microsoft Corp.’s clout in the gaming industry since its release more than two decades ago. As gaming continues to expand far beyond bulky devices that people plug into their television sets, the company is evolving to keep pace with gamers. But its transformation is beginning to raise hackles among regulators who say Microsoft could be even more dominant in the industry’s next era, especially if it completes its proposed $69 billion acquisition of gaming giant Activision Blizzard Inc.

A key to Microsoft’s strategy is Game Pass, a six-year-old service that charges users $10 to $15 a month to play a collection of more than 400 games on the Xbox, Microsoft’s Windows PC operating system, smart TVs, smartphones and tablets. As of January, the number of users who accessed the service on three or more devices had grown 20% compared with the same period the year before. On Feb. 28 the company will expand Game Pass on PC to dozens of new markets, including in Latin America, the Middle East and Eastern Europe, almost doubling the number of countries where it’s available to 86.