Report: Microsoft Could Soon Offer EU Concessions Regarding Activision Deal

Microsoft is reportedly ready to make some concessions to EU regulators as it seeks to complete its $68 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard. With the European Commission set to publish a formal list of competition concerns in January as part of its in-depth investigation of the deal, Reuters is reporting that Microsoft is “likely to offer remedies to EU antitrust regulators” before this January deadline.

In an interview with the New York Times earlier this month, Phil Spencer, CEO of Microsoft Gaming, said that the company offered Sony a 10-year deal to keep Call of Duty games on PlayStation. Spencer and other Microsoft execs also reiterated in other interviews that Microsoft had no plans to remove Call of Duty on PlayStation, as it would make no business sense to stop shipping such a blockbuster game on the leading console platform.

According to Reuters citing a person with direct knowledge of the discussions, Microsoft’s concessions to the EU “would consist mainly of a 10-year licensing deal to Playstation owner Sony,” matching what Phil Spencer in his interview with the New York Times. In another interview with The Verge published earlier this month, Spencer emphasized that the idea of writing a contract guaranteeing Call of Duty on PlayStation forever would be “a little bit silly,” even though Microsoft very much wants to continue to release Call of Duty games on Sony’s consoles as long as PlayStation exists.

Speaking with Reuters, Stephane Dionnet, a partner at law firm McDermott Will & Emery said that Microsoft promising to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation for the next 10 years could help the company go forward with its Activision acquisition.

“Ultimately, such a move could secure an early clearance with the European Commission and subsequently be used by the parties before other antitrust agencies,” said Stephane Dionnet, a partner at law firm McDermott Will & Emery.

“However, it remains to be seen whether the active complainants will validate such concessions (in particular in terms of scope) and if behavioural remedies will also be accepted by the CMA and the FTC,” he said, referring to the UK and U.S. antitrust agencies.

If Microsoft said back in January 2022 that it expected to close its acquisition of Activision Blizzard before the end of June 2023, the EU Commission is expected to announce the results of its investigations on April 11. The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is also investigating the deal, and it will announce its decision in March 2023.

According to a report from Politico last week citing three people with knowledge of the matter, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is also “likely” to file an antitrust lawsuit to block Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard. Microsoft spokesperson David Cuddy said at the time that Microsoft “is prepared to address the concerns of regulators, including the FTC, and Sony to ensure the deal closes with confidence.”

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