New Zealand’s Commerce Commission has officially approved Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard, after a long deliberation process. The news was revealed by Microsoft president Brad Smith, in a tweet flagging New Zealand as the 41st country to approve Microsoft’s plans.
‘With today’s approval from New Zealand, we’re cleared to move forward with our acquisition of Activision Blizzard in 41 countries,’ Smith said. ‘We will continue to work to resolve outstanding concerns and bring this deal to a close.’
According to documents filed with the Commerce Commission, the process of approval has been ongoing since June 2022, with back-and-forth submissions identifying a number of potential issues, and statements from multiple sides of the legal battle.
A final decision was ultimately based on the potential for Microsoft’s purchase of Activision Blizzard to inspire anti-competitive behaviour. On this basis, the Commission ruled that while Activision games like Call of Duty were popular, they were not ‘likely to be “must have” in order to compete with Microsoft in New Zealand.’
As of writing, Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard still has one major hurdle to clear – as the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has yet to hand down a final verdict. In April 2023, the CMA chose to block the proposed deal, as it was concerned Microsoft could gain an unfair advantage in the cloud gaming market. In response, Microsoft filed an appeal.
Following the deal’s approval by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the CMA appeals process accelerated, with Microsoft and the CMA entering renewed talks with the aim of passing an updated verdict.
Notably, the deal has also yet to pass in other, smaller regions – including Australia. Per documentation filed with the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, the deal is currently under consideration as analysts engage overseas regulators. The last update on progress was posted in February 2023, with a local verdict remaining suspended, as of writing.
Whether New Zealand’s decision to approve the deal will have an impact on Australia’s own reasoning remains unclear – but whatever the case, it appears Microsoft is now one step closer to finalising its acquisition plans.