Just as Microsoft has been battling with UK and EU regulators for months over its acquisition of Activision Blizzard, a new boss may be about to enter the arena.
The FTC is preparing to file an antitrust suit seeking to block Microsoft’s $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard, according to a new report from Politico.
While it’s not a guarantee that a lawsuit will be filed, the reporting indicates that things are moving in that direction, and the main concern is that the deal would give Microsoft an “unfair boost” in the video game market.
If it does, we’re likely in for a lengthy legal battle, and one that could replicate many of the same arguments we’ve already seen from the parties involved.
EU and UK regulators have moved on to almost immediately echo Sony talking points centered on how this deal would give Microsoft full ownership of one of the biggest, most profitable IPs in gaming, Call of Duty, and put them in would enable Sony, its biggest competitor, to access the game.
Microsoft, meanwhile, has said a seemingly endless number of times that they have no plans to pull Call of Duty from PlayStation, and will even sign a ten-year contract with them to ensure that doesn’t happen. They would treat it like Minecraft, a previous asset that never left the platforms it always existed on.
This debate has been out of the ordinary off-putting for true video game fans following, as these regulatory bodies barely seem to understand the industry and both companies make misleading, often hypocritical statements to support their respective goals.
Sony has been doing exclusivity deals with special benefits for Call of Duty with Activision for years, but is accusing Microsoft of possibly doing the same after the acquisition. Sony also just said that this deal could mean Microsoft could raise hardware or software prices in a less competitive market while it’s Sony that just raised PS5 prices in some regions and they’ve been the main force behind pushing up a price increase to $70 games this generation.
Microsoft isn’t innocent here either, with CEO Satya Nadella saying things like “let’s compete” when talking about his company buying a video game publisher with a market cap nearly as high as all of Sony itself. Microsoft has downplayed its own games and series saying that Sony is in a way much better position with its IPs, but has offered excuses as to why their other acquisition deals have resulted in exclusive games for Xbox, while it will not in the case of Call of Duty. Recently, Microsoft was just trying to say that “big” games would remain multiplatform, which may not include “medium” games like the upcoming Elder Scrolls VI and Starfield. Medium size. Sure, okay.
It is an exhausting fight between the two sides with very bad arguments on both sides. But from the regulatory investigations so far, it looks like Microsoft is slowly losing this battle, and if the FTC takes Sony’s points the same way it does abroad, it could spell disaster for the deal. And if the deal is dead? That could do serious damage to Activision itself, which is really counting on this to continue, and failure at this point could spell decimation for its game output and employees. Not that that’s a reason to approve it, but at this point it’s certainly a possible outcome given the reality of the situation.
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