Could Microsoft pull off a 'Mexit' and quit the UK after Aquiblizz blocks?

It's not impossible. Microsoft could pull prohibited games out of the UK to close the Activision Blizzard deal. But what would that mean and how likely is it to happen?

Could Microsoft pull off a 'Mexit' and quit the UK after Aquiblizz blocks?

Microsoft’s ongoing attempts to acquire Activision Blizzard has been filled with more twists and turns than a good book, and like any good story there’s a very real sense that nobody knows quite what’s going to happen next.

In December, America’s Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sued to block the deal, citing its concerns about how the deal would affect competitors. The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and the EU’s European Commission (EC) also launched investigations into the deal. April saw the UK CMA block the deal - a decision that Microsoft is appealing - while the EC decided to give it its approval.

While Microsoft’s appeal could see the CMA change its mind, it does raise an important question - namely, what happens if they don’t?

Approval of a deal by any legislative body isn’t necessary for its completion. Put simply, it only affects the combined entity’s ability to do business within a specific market. It’s therefore possible that Microsoft could simply decide to take the drastic steps of withdrawing Activision Blizzard titles from the UK, allowing them to complete the deal and benefit elsewhere while dodging any UK blocks. In a word, pull off a so-called 'Mexit' from the UK.

How likely is Mexit?

First, let’s consider the implications of Mexit. The UK is a massive gaming market, representing billions of dollars of revenue annually. Activision Blizzard, meanwhile, is one of the biggest names in gaming across all platforms, ranging from console hits such as Call of Duty, MMORPG’s such as World of Warcraft and, through its mobile subsidiary King, the widely popular Candy Crush franchise.

While a UK without Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Candy Crush and more seems unthinkable, right now, speaking to CNBC in the States, that option is not being ruled out, with Microsoft boss Satya Nadella stating “Let’s wait for it to all play out” when asked about the possibility.

But what would Activision Blizzard do? While the gaming giant remains committed to the deal, it stated in its most recent shareholders notice that the deal could be abandoned if “any action has been taken by any governmental authority of competent jurisdiction, that… prohibits, makes illegal or enjoins the consummation of the merger and has become final and non-appealable.”

We’ve previously reported that the merger’s case with the USA’s FTC is scheduled for after the deal’s completion. This would force the two companies to renegotiate the deal, but it could prove the opportune moment for one, or either, to step away from the table, should either prove reluctant to continue without selling Activision Blizzard products in the UK.

What about the USA?

With all the talk regarding the CMA’s decision, it’s easy to forget that, as noted above, the FTC has also sued to block the deal. As such, we have to consider how its decision could affect the acquisition.

Should the CMA and the FTC both decide to shut the deal down, Microsoft and Activision Blizzard are likely to terminate the deal at the first opportunity. Losing access to not one, but two of the world’s biggest gaming markets is likely to far outweigh any financial benefit to forging ahead. While Microsoft may decide to continue without the UK, and even convince Activision Blizzard to do so, the USA is a different story entirely.

What does the future hold for Acquiblizz? That remains to be seen. What would have simply been the largest acquisition in gaming history has quickly developed into a tangled web of accusations and legalese that industry analysts may be examining years from now, regardless of its eventual outcome.

We listed Activision Blizzard as one of the top 50 mobile game makers of 2022.

Staff Writer

Lewis Rees is a journalist, author, and escape room enthusiast based in South Wales. He got his degree in Film and Video from the University of Glamorgan. He's been a gamer all his life.