The US Federal Trade Commission has reportedly stepped in to review the $68.7 billion buyout of Activision Blizzard by Microsoft. Per Bloomberg’s sources, they will take over from the Justice Department, the agency with which is shares the responsibility of scrutinising mergers and any antitrust implications from them.
This could be a sign that the Activision Blizzard buyout is going to be under a greater deal of scrutiny than the Bethesda purchase in late 2020 and early 2021, and fits with a change of direction under the current administration. FTC Chair Lina Khan and her counterpart at Justice Department Jonathan Kanter have announced efforts to strengthen merger reviews, recognising that there is a surge in mergers and acquisitions across various industries, and in particular through tech.
We’ve already seen this in action as the FTC has sued to block Nvidia’s $40 billion acquisition of Arm, the British semiconductor designer whose chipset designs and licensed technologies have fuelled the smartphone revolution.
Further Reading: What does Microsoft buying Activision Blizzard mean for gamers?
Microsoft and Activision Blizzard agreed a $68.7 billion buyout in January, the tech giant seeking to pick up the third largest gaming company in terms of revenue. Call of Duty is a perennial franchise on the Activision side of things, while Blizzard is working to deliver major sequels like Overwatch 2 and Diablo 4, and the company also includes Candy Crush creator King. The FTC and other regulatory bodies will have to decide if the prospect of Call of Duty and other major games becoming Microsoft exclusives will actively harm the marketplace.
Microsoft has pledged to honour the existing contracts for releasing games on other platforms, with Call of Duty set to appear on PlayStation through 2024. The company has never taken a hardline stance at acquired studios make their in-progress game releases into Xbox exclusives. Psychonauts 2 was a cross-platform release, albeit with an Xbox Series X|S exclusive upgrade for the new generation, while Wasteland 3 was released with Koch Media publishing. Similarly, despite having acquired Bethesda at the start of last year, Microsoft is honouring the exclusivity agreements that have made Deathloop and Ghostwire Tokyo into timed PlayStation 5 exclusives. Of course, where there hasn’t been an existing agreement, Microsoft and Bethesda have confirmed that Starfield, Redfall and The Elder Scrolls VI will be Xbox console exclusives.