Microsoft-Activision Blizzard merger approved in UK, now what?

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The United Kingdom’s Competition and Markets Authority has finally approved Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision-Blizzard, just five days away from its October 18 deadline.

Microsoft’s battle for the acquisition of Activision-Blizzard has been a lengthy and complicated affair. In April 2023, Microsoft was blocked from acquiring Activision-Blizzard due to the CMA’s concerns about Microsoft potentially monopolizing the cloud gaming sector. This followed lawsuits and investigations due to anti-trust concerns by financial authorities in other countries.

Microsoft filed an appeal a month later, believing that the deal was healthy for the cloud gaming sector. Given the number of monthly active users for cloud gaming in the UK tripled between 2021 and 2022, the CMA alleged that Microsoft saw this growth as a chance to monopolize the industry and potentially undermine innovation. The CMA states that Microsoft could do this by leveraging popular franchises such as Call of Duty and World of Warcraft.

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Why did the UK approve Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision-Blizzard?

Microsoft modified its acquisition deal to ensure that Activision-Blizzard titles would not be made exclusive to Microsoft-owned streaming services.

The biggest concern the CMA had with the Microsoft acquisition was the company’s ability to control the cloud gaming market through exclusivity. If Activision-Blizzard titles became exclusive to services like Xbox Game Pass, then it could negatively impact the industry’s growth, according to the CMA. The tech giant has made aggressive moves to acquire major gaming studios including the purchases of Minecraft’s Mojang and The Elder Scrolls’ Bethesda Softworks.

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A modified deal presented by Microsoft to the CMA in August 2023 will prevent the company from locking competition out of Activision-Blizzard’s titles. However, the CMA criticized Microsoft for “dragging out proceedings” when the modifications could have been made during the initial investigation. It’s possible that games like Diablo 4 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 could still end up on Xbox Game Pass.

Does Microsoft officially own Activision-Blizzard now?

Yes, Microsoft is approved to complete its acquisition of Activision-Blizzard.

Almost two years after the merger’s initial announcement back in January 2022, Microsoft is finally cleared to acquire Activision-Blizzard. With the EU’s approval, alongside 40 other countries, there is nothing blocking the deal from happening at this time. This doesn’t mean that Microsoft isn’t due back in court, however.

The United States’ Federal Trade Commission is still planning an internal administrative hearing about the merger. The FTC was denied an injunction to block the merger from occurring in July 2023. After that, only the CMA was blocking Microsoft from completing the deal. With the CMA’s approval, Microsoft has no more walls against its future plans for the industry.

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Written by Gab Hernandez

Gab Hernandez has a particular love for video games that give players control over the narrative direction, such as Divinity: Original Sin 2 and Disco Elysium. Gab spends just as much time playing games as they do gushing about them online to anyone who will listen. Their work has also been seen on TheGamer, Gfinity, and Wargamer, and you can follow them on Twitter / X at @HardlyWorkinGab.

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