Microsoft is attempting to persuade regulators around the world to clear its $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard — the biggest deal of its kind the gaming industry has ever seen.
Amid concerns about its effect on competition in the industry, and in the face of ardent lobbying against the deal by competitor Sony, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has said it will attempt to block the deal legally, while the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority has also expressed skepticism.
On March 2, Reuters reported that Microsoft’s willingness to offer licensing deals to its rivals was “likely” to address the European Commission’s concerns over the tech giant’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard.
Reuters’ sources said that the EU was unlikely to demand the sale of any assets to get the deal through. (The U.K.’s regulator, the Competition and Markets Authority, has suggested that structural remedies, such as selling off the Call of Duty business, might be necessary to win its approval.)
If true, this means the EU is now quite likely to wave the deal through, which would be an enormous boost to Microsoft’s campaign to close its $69 billion buyout. It puts pressure on other regulators to justify their opposition, as well as on Sony to accept Microsoft’s offer of a 10-year licensing deal for Call of Duty on PlayStation. Sony is looking increasingly isolated in its staunch opposition to the deal going ahead.
We will need to wait a little longer to find out for sure, however, as the EU has pushed its deadline to rule on the deal back by a couple of weeks, to April 25.
In another boost to Microsoft’s fortunes, a U.S. judge working for the FTC’s case against the deal ruled that Microsoft will be allowed to see some of the internal Sony documents it requested, including Sony’s communications with regulators, and details of its exclusivity arrangements with publishers.
Microsoft is presumably hoping to embarrass Sony and poke holes in its argument by pointing out that PlayStation is far more reliant on exclusivity deals — including on Call of Duty content — than Xbox is.
MICROSOFT PUSHES HARD AT EU MEETING, CONVERTS NVIDIA, BUT SONY WON’T BUDGE
Microsoft used every means at its disposal on Tuesday, Feb. 21, to push its acquisition of Activision Blizzard forward. It announced it had signed a deal with Nvidia to make Xbox PC games, including Activision Blizzard titles like Call of Duty, available on the GeForce Now cloud gaming service, a direct rival to its own Xbox Cloud Gaming.
This is the first step Microsoft has taken to calm regulators’ concerns about it establishing a stranglehold over the cloud gaming market, as opposed to the availability of Call of Duty on rival consoles.
MICROSOFT FINALIZES DEAL TO BRING CALL OF DUTY TO NINTENDO FOR 10 YEARS
Microsoft has confirmed that it has signed a “binding 10-year legal agreement” to put Call of Duty on Nintendo platforms on “the same day as Xbox, with full feature and content parity.” Microsoft vice chair and president Brad Smith announced the deal on Twitter.
“We are committed to providing long-term equal access to Call of Duty to other gaming platforms, bringing more choice to more players and more competition to the gaming market,” Smith’s statement read.
His wording, and the agreement itself, are clearly aimed at regulators deliberating over Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard, among whom the accessibility of Call of Duty to other platforms has been seen as a key issue. The deal will bring Call of Duty back to Nintendo consoles for the first time since 2013.