Microsoft is reportedly likely to offer concessions to European regulators in order to push through its proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard. According to Reuters, the company is looking to fast-track the complaint process by introducing new terms – including a potential 10-year licensing deal with Sony for Call of Duty.
The acquisition of Activision Blizzard has come under major scrutiny in recent months, with much of the focus being on potentially anti-competitive behaviour. The belief on Sony’s part is that Microsoft will wield the power of the Call of Duty franchise to extreme extents, potentially making it exclusive in a bid to ice its rivals out of the market.
Microsoft has refuted this multiple times, claiming the deal isn’t about Call of Duty at all – but that it’s about Candy Crush, and the mobile capability of Activision Blizzard developers. As Microsoft Head of Gaming Phil Spencer reportedly said, Microsoft currently lacks the capacity for mobile development, and as mobile gaming grows, the company is looking to diversify its revenue streams.
Sources speaking to Reuters believe this is true, and that Microsoft is now looking to double down on these claims by offering a lucrative deal to Sony, in exchange for aid to pass the Activision Blizzard acquisition with global antitrust agencies.
‘Such a move could secure an early clearance with the European Commission and subsequently be used by the parties before other antitrust agencies,’ Stephane Dionnet, a partner at law firm McDermott Will & Emery told Reuters. ‘However, it remains to be seen whether the active complainants will validate such concessions, and if behavioural remedies will also be accepted by the [UK Competition and Markets Authority] and the [US Federal Trade Commission].’
At this stage, only a potential licensing deal with Sony has been specified as a potential concession for passing the deal – however, others could be offered ahead of a January 2023 deadline for a statement of objection from the European Commission.
Given Microsoft has faced months of scrutiny from global regulators, it’s likely now looking to ease the process by directly addressing antitrust concerns, and the future of Call of Duty – which appears to be the major bugbear for anti-competitive complaints. Should these potential concessions be lodged, Microsoft may be one step further to officially acquiring Activision Blizzard.