The U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has blocked Microsoft’s attempt to acquire Activision Blizzard because of its potential negative impact on cloud gaming.
Since January 2022, Xbox parent company Microsoft has been trying to acquire Activision Blizzard, the video game publisher behind franchises like Call of Duty, Diablo, Warcraft, and Overwatch. The companies have run into lots of regulatory hurdles, though, especially from the CMA and FTC, the latter of which is currently suing Microsoft. While it seemed like the CMA was inching towards approving the deal, the U.K. regulator ultimately decided to block it due to its potential impact on the fledgling cloud gaming market.
“Microsoft has a strong position in cloud gaming services and the evidence available to the CMA showed that Microsoft would find it commercially beneficial to make Activision’s games exclusive to its own cloud gaming service,” a press release from the CMA explains. ” Allowing Microsoft to take such a strong position in the cloud gaming market just as it begins to grow rapidly would risk undermining the innovation that is crucial to the development of these opportunities.”
Over the past couple of months, Microsoft has attempted to ease these cloud gaming concerns by making deals with companies like Nvidia and EE. The CMA did not think these remedies were enough, though, saying that Microsoft’s efforts didn’t account for enough potential business models, cloud gaming services that don’t use Windows, and how the deal could take “the dynamism and creativity of competition” away from the U.K.’s cloud gaming market.
Obviously, Activision Blizzard and Microsoft aren’t too happy about this decision. Activision Blizzard directly attacks the CMA in a statement provided to Digital Trends, saying that the “report contradicts the ambitions of the U.K. to become an attractive country to build technology businesses,” before calling the country’s economic prospects “dire” and threatening that it will reconsider its plans for growth in that country.
Microsoft’s statement from Vice Chair and President Brad Smith is a bit more measured, saying that Microsoft is “fully committed to this acquisition and will appeal.” Citing the deals the company has already made to bring Call of Duty to more platforms, Smith says that the decision shows “a flawed understanding of this market and the way the relevant cloud technology actually works.”
Microsoft has a lot of work cut out for itself if it still wants to force this deal through after pressure from the FTC and CMA. As the appeals process could take up to nine months or more, it seems unlikely that the acquisition meets its original June 2023 deadline; it’s probable we’ll be following this fight to acquire Activision Blizzard for the rest of the year.
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