It’s been a busy week in terms of AcquiBlizz - the ongoing saga of Microsoft’s attempts to acquire Activision Blizzard - one of the biggest evolving stories to hit the mobile gaming world in recent years.
The deal has come under fire from regulators and competitors alike, largely due to how the deal could affect competition. In the console space, Sony has repeatedly lobbied against the deal due to the prospect of Microsoft taking Activision Blizzard’s best-selling Call of Duty franchise away from PlayStation. While Microsoft has repeatedly denied this, up to and including signing deals with the likes of Nintendo and Nvidia to put its money where its mouth is, regulators have proven harder to convince.
The deal is currently under fire on three main fronts: The USA’s Federal Trade Comission (FTC), the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), and the EU’s European Commission (EC), and this week saw some significant movement on two of those.
In the EU, the EC delayed the deadline for its final decision until May 22, giving it more time to look over the evidence. While earlier reports suggested that the commission was warming to the deal following Microsoft’s concessions in recent months, this suggests that the EU is still intent on carrying out a comprehensive investigation before making its final decision. After all, while it’s done a lot of work to assuage concerns in the console space, the deal still faces significant opposition from Google, with Microsoft’s plans to open a competing app store as soon as next year possibly representing a significant threat to Google Play, especially if it decides to make the Microsoft app store the exclusive home of King titles.
The battle’s over, but the war rages on in the UK
In turn the CMA has made significant movement in its own investigation, namely by - as they say - 'narrowing its scope'. Having analysed a variety of scenarios, the group have now come to the conclusion that removing Call of Duty from PlayStation would result in a significant loss of revenue for the franchise and therefore unlikley to happen.
This does however mark a flip from their previous judgement being that Microsoft would benefit from taking Call of Duty exclusive. As such the changes to their provisional findings - a highly unusual move in cases of this type - is a victory of Microsoft and removes the Call of Duty exclusivity debate, something that up until now was the biggest obstacle to the proposed merger taking place.
However, the CMA still has concerns about how the deal would affect cloud gaming, and has yet to see any significant evidence that would lessen its concerns. However, with the group narrowing its focus, there’s still plenty of time for a conclusion to be reached prior to the April 26 deadline.
Some credence to Sony’s claims emerged on March 23, when game director Harvey Smith told IGN that a PS5 version of Redfall was scrapped following the acquisition of Arkane Studios parent company Zenimax by Microsoft.
“We got bought by Microsoft and that was a huge sea change. They said, ‘no PlayStation 5. Now we’re gonna do Game Pass, Xbox, and PC.’”
However, Microsoft denied these allegations on March 24 in a statement to Eurogamer.
"We haven't pulled any games from PlayStation. In fact, we've expanded our footprint of games that we've shipped on Sony's PlayStation since our acquisition of ZeniMax, and the first two games we shipped after closing were PlayStation 5 exclusives. We did the same thing since our closing of Minecraft as we extended the reach of that franchise.
We listed Activision Blizzard as one of the top 50 mobile game makers of 2022.