UK competition regulators of the CMA (Competition & Market Authority) are set to make a decision about whether to clear the proposed Activision Blizzard acquisition by tech giant Microsoft early next year. Their decision could include recommendations to prevent anti-competitive practices as a result of the deal and follows EU regulators' as yet unannounced decision on the acquisition.
The Activision Blizzard deal has been a hot topic in the games industry for months and there’s been extensive controversy and speculation around the proposed acquisition. CEO of Playstation Jim Ryan has been vocally critical of the deal despite, or perhaps because of, an offer to keep Activision’s lucrative Call of Duty titles available to Playstation for three years.
Freeze! This is a hold-up!
Antitrust regulators are tasked with reviewing acquisitions and mergers, ensuring that no one company can form an effective monopoly, as well as promoting competition in industries by curbing anti-competitive practices. With the size of Activision Blizzard and their catalogue, which includes the still very successful Call of Duty franchise as well as World of Warcraft, Overwatch and more, it’s a massive acquisition. Adding these to Microsoft’s ownership of Xbox and other titles has been cause for regulators to step in.
Blizzard also has a firm foothold in the mobile market with the android and iOS versions of their online card game Hearthstone as well as Diablo Immortal, which reported $97m in revenue this August. Both the lucrative nature of Activision Blizzard’s IP’s and the revenue being brought in by them are likely causing alarm bells to ring with regulators. We ranked the deal as the largest in gaming history and it’s not hyperbole to say that it would register in all areas of the industry from AAA games, to free-to-play and indeed mobile gaming itself.
The CMA’s decision is set to come out in March 2023, months after the EU regulators’ decision on November the 8th. Although it’s possible the latter will commit to a further four month long investigation into the acquisition. This kind of delay could dissuade Microsoft, it’s unlikely to dissuade them as the benefits of the deal far outweigh the potential costs.
By making certain games from Activision Blizzard’s portfolio exclusive to Xbox, the speculation is that this would detract from Playstation’s market-value to customers. Microsoft will also have to grapple with the misconduct allegations still casting a shadow over Activision Blizzard’s inner workings,with controversial chief compliance officer Frances Townsend stepping down earlier in the week.