(GeekWire File Photo / Nat Levy)

Microsoft plans to bring the next generation of Xbox video game consoles to market in 2028, according to documents unsealed in Microsoft’s ongoing court battle with the FTC.

Phil Spencer, Microsoft’s head of Xbox, took the stand Friday in San Francisco for the second day of a hearing that could determine the fate of Microsoft’s proposed $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard, the game giant behind blockbuster franchises including Call of Duty, Candy Crush, Warcraft, Diablo, and Starcraft.

The US Federal Trade Commission is seeking an injunction that would prevent Microsoft from meeting the final deadline on its acquisition agreements with Activision, which would entitle Activision to a $3 billion penalty payment and potentially sink the acquisition as a whole.

Friday’s testimony at the hearing was primarily dedicated to a back-and-forth between the FTC’s lawyers and Spencer. In a June 22 filing, Microsoft said outright that Xbox has “lost the console wars,” coming in a consistent third place behind both Sony and Nintendo.

Phil Spencer, Microsoft head of Xbox, testified for much of the day. (Microsoft Photo)

Asked for further comment on that, Spencer called those wars “a social construct with the community,” a phrase that went viral on social media for a few hours.

One of the bigger pieces of news from the case didn’t come from the testimony, however. Gaming website IGN reported that some of the court’s documents reveal Microsoft’s current plans for the Xbox, which includes the expectation that the next generation of gaming consoles will hit the market around 2028.

On the stand, Spencer also testified in response to an FTC lawyer’s questioning that the next entry in Bethesda Softworks’ best-selling Elder Scrolls series (Skyrim, Oblivion, Morrowind, etc.) is at least five years away, and that he wasn’t sure what Microsoft platforms it would appear on.

That, in turn, has started rumors that a theoretical 10th-generation Xbox might launch with a new Elder Scrolls game as a console exclusive.

This marked what’s become a fairly typical exchange in the hearing. The FTC’s argument during the hearing has hinged largely on the aftermath of Microsoft’s 2021 acquisition of Bethesda Softworks and the subsequent decision to release its highly-anticipated game Starfield as a console exclusive for Xbox.

Before Microsoft acquired Bethesda, two of Bethesda’s highest-profile games, Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo, were initially console exclusives for the PlayStation. Spencer testified that pre-acquisition, Starfield was going in a similar direction, where it would’ve appeared on Xbox months or years after PlayStation if it had been ported to the system at all.

It’s all part of what appears to be Microsoft’s overall defensive strategy in this week’s hearing. Sony commands a substantial lead in the console market; Microsoft has cited figures that show it has 30% of the overall console market vs. PlayStation’s 70%, although those figures conspicuously omit Nintendo from the picture.

As such, Microsoft appears to be arguing, its acquisitions for Xbox are all a matter of basic survival in an intensely competitive market.

Spencer also discussed the fact that Activision, through its subsidiary company King, is the single largest mobile gaming developer in the world, primarily off the strength of franchises like Candy Crush.

On the stand, Spencer called mobile gaming a “gap in our portfolio,” which the Activision Blizzard acquisition would address, along the way to Microsoft launching its own competitive mobile app store.

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