Microsoft’s bid to acquire Activision Blizzard may have hit another roadblock, with sources speaking to Reuters claiming the European Commission will issue an antitrust warning to Microsoft, to prevent the deal from going through in its current form.
A charge sheet detailing how the company is breaking antitrust laws is reportedly being drafted, with this being a necessary step before Microsoft can present any defence or concessions. While concessions have been proactively offered in other antitrust lawsuits, no remedy can be provided until the EU issues its official ‘statement of objections’.
‘We’re continuing to work with the European Commission to address any marketplace concerns,’ Microsoft told Reuters of the matter. ‘Our goal is to bring more games to more people, and this deal will further that goal.’
The EU is expected to pass its judgement by 11 April 2023, at which point Microsoft will likely be invited to address concerns, and appeal the firm objections.
As Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard progresses, it’s likely to face even more global scrutiny. The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is currently finalising its decision on the deal, with a verdict set to pass by April 2023.
Even if this should pass without a need for amendments or concessions (which seems unlikely, given the immense scrutiny placed on the deal), Microsoft will then have to face the judgement of the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which is reportedly in the earliest stages of its investigation.
A ruling from this organisation is expected by August 2023.
With the scope of the deal being largely unprecedented in the games industry, there’s a concerted push for global market regulators to investigate the minutiae of Activison Blizzard’s potential acquisition. Having access to a vast library of games and major, long-running franchises is likely to be of great benefit to Microsoft – but regulators must ensure this power is wielded fairly, and does not cause an industry monopoly.
For that reason, it’s likely we won’t see a final verdict on the Activision Blizzard deal for several months – possibly even into 2024. Stay tuned for the latest news and updates from each investigation as they progress.