After the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority just concluded the first phase of its review of Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard deal, Microsoft said today that it’s ready to address the regulators’ concerns. In a press release, the CMA pretty much said that the marriage of these two juggernauts could potentially hurt the competition.
“The CMA is concerned that if Microsoft buys Activision Blizzard it could harm rivals, including recent and future entrants into gaming, by refusing them access to Activision Blizzard games or providing access on much worse terms,” the UK regulator said today.
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Additionally, the CMA is worried that Microsoft’s adding Activision Blizzard games to Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Cloud Gaming could hurt other cloud gaming services. “If our current concerns are not addressed, we plan to explore this deal in an in-depth Phase 2 investigation to reach a decision that works in the interests of UK gamers and businesses,” said Sorcha O’Carroll, Senior Director of Mergers at the CMA.
Microsoft and Activision Blizzard now have 5 working days to address the CMA’s concerns. Microsoft President Brad Smith has already shared a reassuring statement, reiterating that Microsoft has no plans to pull Call of Duty games from PlayStation consoles.
“We’re ready to work with the CMA on next steps and address any of its concerns. Sony, as the industry leader, says it is worried about Call of Duty, but we’ve said we are committed to making the same game available on the same day on both Xbox and PlayStation. We want people to have more access to games, not less.” Smith said.
Phil Spencer, CEO of Microsoft Gaming also penned a blog post echoing Brad Smith’s statements. Spencer also used the example of Minecraft, which still remains available on PlayStation and Nintendo consoles following Microsoft’s acquisition of Mojang back in 2014.
“We will continue to enable people to play with each other across platforms and across devices. We know players benefit from this approach because we’ve done it with Minecraft, which continues to be available on multiple platforms and has expanded to even more since Mojang joined Microsoft in 2014,” Spencer said.
Microsoft said back in January that it expected its acquisition of Activision Blizzard to close in 2023. The $68 billion deal will be Microsoft’s largest acquisition ever, and it’s also quite unprecedented in the video games industry. It remains to be seen if the UK’s CMA could delay this acquisition, though Spencer also emphasized today that Sony and other competitors are also playing the acquisition game right now.
“The gaming industry today is robust and dynamic. Industry leaders, including Tencent and Sony, continue to expand their deep and extensive libraries of games as well as other entertainment brands and franchises, which are enjoyed by players everywhere. We believe that a thorough review will show that the combination of Microsoft and Activision Blizzard will benefit the industry and players,” Spencer said.