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European Union approves Microsoft's purchase of Activision Blizzard with conditions

The Microsoft and Activision Blizzard logos

As previously rumored, the European Union's regulatory body, the European Commission, has approved Microsoft's planned $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard. However, that approval does come with conditions.

The EC's press release states that it did not believe the deal would cause issues with console gaming competition in the EU. However, the EC did have concerns with Microsoft's plans for cloud gaming. It stated:

Despite its potential, cloud game streaming is very limited today. The Commission found that the popularity of Activision's games could promote its growth. Instead, if Microsoft made Activision's games exclusive to its own cloud game streaming service, Game Pass Ultimate, and withheld them from rival cloud game streaming providers, it would reduce competition in the distribution of games via cloud game streaming.

Microsoft offered two remedies to the EC for their approval:

  • A free license to consumers in the EEA that would allow them to stream, via any cloud game streaming services of their choice, all current and future Activision Blizzard PC and console games for which they have a license.
  • A corresponding free license to cloud game streaming service providers to allow EEA-based gamers to stream any Activision Blizzard's PC and console games.

The EC agreed that these remedies by Microsoft "will unlock significant benefits for competition and consumers, by bringing Activision's games to new platforms, including smaller EU players, and to more devices than before." However, the EC will make sure Microsoft keeps these promises, stating, "Under supervision of the Commission, an independent trustee will be in charge of monitoring their implementation."

Microsoft President Brad Smith issued this statement on the EC's decision:

The European Commission has required Microsoft to license popular Activision Blizzard games automatically to competing cloud gaming services. This will apply globally and will empower millions of consumers worldwide to play these games on any device they choose.

The EC's approval is good news for Microsoft, especially since the UK's Competition and Markets Authority blocked the company's move to buy Activision Blizzard in April. The CMA claimed the deal would give Microsoft an unfair advantage in the cloud gaming space. Microsoft plans to appeal the decision, but a final judgment could take months.

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