Earlier this month, the European Commission, the regulatory body of the European Union, announced it would approve Microsoft's planned acquisition of Activision Blizzard. This was in contrast to the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) decision in late April to block that same purchase.
Today, Margrethe Vestager, the EVP for the European Commission, offered some reasons why it ultimately decided to approve the deal. She made these remarks in a speech at the International Forum of the Studienvereinigung Kartellrecht in Brussels, Belgium (via The Verge).
Vestager noted that at the moment, Microsoft's market share in the game console business is small compared to its main rival Sony. She stated:
It's only when you look at specific segments like ‘shooter games' that you get to above 20%. And for consoles, Sony sells about 4 times more PlayStations than Microsoft sells Xboxs.
Both the EC and the CMA agreed that Microsoft would likely not turn the huge Call of Duty franchise into an Xbox exclusive series and that it would continue to sell the game to Sony's PlayStation platforms. Indeed, Microsoft also said it would allow the series to be sold on Nintendo's consoles once the Activision Blizzard deal was completed.
The differences between the EC and the CMA were with Microsoft's efforts to expand cloud gaming. Vestager stated that it accepted Microsoft's remedies of offering 10 years of its own games and Activision Blizzard's games to rival cloud gaming services. They included services like NVIDIA GeForce Now, Boosteroid, and others. She said:
Consider the pre-merger situation, where Activision does not license its games to cloud services. So, in this case, the remedy opens the door for smaller cloud services in the EU to offer big games on their platforms, widening choice for gamers. The merits of this remedy was recognised across the spectrum - by developers, by cloud gaming providers, by distributors and of course also by consumer groups. And that is because it unlocked the potential of the cloud market.
When the CMA made its decision to block the purchase of Activision Blizzard by Microsoft, it claimed that even with these deals in place with other cloud gaming services, the agreement "would inevitably require some degree of regulatory oversight by the CMA."
Microsoft has confirmed it has filed its appeal of the CMA's decision, but there's no word on how long the appeal process might take.
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