Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard deal gets CMA provisional warning

The UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has warned the impending deal could harm players.
call of duty warzone

The UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has handed down the provisional conclusion of its investigation into the Microsoft acquisition of Activision Blizzard – and it’s not looking positive for either company. In its report, the CMA has claimed that, despite reassurances, the deal could have an extremely negative impact on the global games industry, reduce competition, and ‘result in higher prices, fewer choices, or less innovation for UK gamers.’

‘Our job is to make sure that UK gamers are not caught in the crossfire of global deals that, over time, could damage competition and result in higher prices, fewer choices, or less innovation. We have provisionally found that this may be the case here,’ the CMA said.

To combat these potentially anti-competitive developments, the CMA has recommended Call of Duty be removed from the proposed deal. It has also published alternative recommendations to partially divest Activision Blizzard, including a potential split of the once-separate companies.

Beyond these two recommendations, the CMA also suggested an outright ban on the planned acquisition of Activision Blizzard.

Read: Activision Blizzard acquisition is about Candy Crush, says Microsoft

While this ruling is not yet definitive – it has been detailed as a ‘provisional conclusion’ only – it does not bode well for Microsoft’s plans. Even considering its recent commitments to putting Call of Duty on multiple platforms and maintaining non-exclusive rights over the franchise, the CMA has called the company’s plans into question.

It appears reassurances about the franchise have failed to find their mark – and it may be that no guarantees are enough for the CMA. It has acknowledged Microsoft’s non-exclusivity proposal, but has expressed a desire for a more permanent solution. While it has provided an ‘out’ in the form of Call of Duty divestiture, it’s unclear how this would work.

Call of Duty is currently an Activision Blizzard-owned franchise, and one of the largest mainstream titles the company owns. While Microsoft has claimed it remains impartial to the franchise’s exclusivity, there’s no doubt its inclusion is a major part of the Activision Blizzard deal – and that its removal would change agreed terms dramatically.

The next steps for Microsoft remain unclear.

In the coming months, the CMA will hear responses from all parties involved in the deal, and listen to any concessions Microsoft is willing to provide. Then, a final report will be handed down by April 2023.

Activision Blizzard appears to be pinning its hopes on spending this time better educating the CMA on the games industry and how it functions – but given the months of investigation already completed by the organisation, it’s unknown if these appeals will be successful.

We’ll learn more about the status of the proposed Activision Blizzard acquisition in the coming months.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.