EU Commission approves Microsoft’s Activision acquisition

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The EU Commission has approved Microsoft’s $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard, with Microsoft’s various concessions made over the past few months having assured the regulator that cloud gaming would not be seriously harmed by the move.

The EU Commission’s decision is a real boost for Microsoft’s bid to add the monolithic game publisher to its gaming business, coming just a few weeks after the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority moved to block the deal outright. Microsoft is taking the UK CMA’s decision to the courts, and faces a legal challenge with the US Federal Trade Commission as well, but it certainly feels as though the deal could be getting back on track.

Similarly to the CMA, concerns over competition within console gaming fell to the wayside, as the EU Commission determined that it really wouldn’t make sense for Microsoft to then block Call of Duty on PlayStation, and that even if they did pull COD from its rivals, it wouldn’t harm competition – COD is less popular in the European Economic Area, than other regions.

As for game subscriptions, the EU agreed that Activision wasn’t about to drop its games in a multi-game subscription service, as it would cannibalise sales, so Xbox Game Pass vs. PlayStation Plus isn’t really a factor either.

But when we come to cloud gaming, Microsoft would be cementing their lead in an emerging market with this acquisition – it’s this that led to the CMA’s decision.

Given that this was the main issue that the EU had, it seems that Microsoft’s proactive signing of deals with other streaming services has persuaded the EU to let the deal through. In particular being able to stream purchased games via streaming services like GeForce Now, and signing 10-year deals with other game library streaming platforms as well.

So there we have it. The EU has given the green light, so now we just need to wait on the UK and US courts. Speaking of which, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has seemingly started to lean toward big business, saying in recent days that the CMA should be “strategically steered” and “not get in the way”.

Despite everything, the CMA chief executive Sarah Cardell backed their decision, and condemned that of the EU, saying:

“Microsoft’s proposals, accepted by the European Commission today, would allow Microsoft to set the terms and conditions for this market for the next 10 years. They would replace a free, open and competitive market with one subject to ongoing regulation of the games Microsoft sells, the platforms to which it sells them, and the conditions of sale. This is one of the reasons the CMA’s independent panel group rejected Microsoft’s proposals and prevented this deal.”

Source: EU Commission

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