Following the FTC’s decision to sue to block Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard, a US judge has issued a temporary restraining order stopping the industry giants from closing the deal, reports the Verge.
The order prevents Microsoft and Acquisition from closing the deal until the court considers whether or not to grant the FTC’s request for a preliminary injunction, which would create further roadblocks in the path to the deal’s success. As a result of the restraining order, the deal can’t be completed until “after 11.59 p.m. Pacific Time on the fifth day after the Court rules on the FTC’s request for a preliminary injunction,” or on a date set by the court. An evidentiary hearing for a preliminary injunction will be held on June 22 or 23.
Speaking to The Verge, Microsoft general manager of public affairs David Cuddy said: “Accelerating the legal process in the US will ultimately bring more choice and competition to the gaming market. A temporary restraining order makes sense until we can receive a decision from the Court, which is moving swiftly.”
The blizzard shows no signs of ending soon
Although more and more markets have approved acquiblizz, as we’ve come to call it, it’s faced significant criticism from both competitors and legislators who fear that the deal could give Microsoft a significant advantage in the console and cloud markets. Strangely, despite Microsoft’s assertions that the prime motivator of the deal is to increase its footprint on mobile platforms, few legislators have taken note of Google’s criticism of the deal due to how Microsoft’s plans to open its own app store could adversely affect Google Play.
The UK’s CMA voted to block the deal in April, a decision Microsoft is appealing, but the tech giant refused to rule out a so-called mexit - a situation where Microsoft would cut the UK out of the equation by removing Activision Blizzard titles from British markets. This would allow the deal to close even if the CMA refuses to approve it.
Mexit would certainly be the nuclear option, as it would mean cutting a key market out of the equation and eating the losses. The USA, however, is an even more lucrative market than the UK, and as such it’s unlikely that Microsoft and Activision Blizzard would see loss of access to the American market as a price worth paying.
The FTC is currently scheduled to make its final decision regarding the acquisition in August, which is past the deal’s contractual deadline of July 18. As such, it’s likely that the companies would renegotiate the deal - however, this would also present the opportune moment for either company to walk away from the table.
We listed Activision Blizzard as one of the top 50 mobile game makers of 2022.