UK regulator: Microsoft's purchase of Activision Blizzard could harm gamers

A graphic showing Microsoft acquiring Activision Blizzard

The proposal by Microsoft to purchase game publisher Activision Blizzard for $69 billion could potentially harm gamers in the United Kingdom. That's the opinion of the Competition and Markets Authority, the UK regulation group which posted its provisional findings today, (via CNBC).

Today's press release from the CMA stated it had been investigating the deal for several months. That included, among other things, examining over three million documents from both companies, surveying UK gamers, and also examining evidence from other gaming related businesses.

The provisional findings stated that "Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of Activision could result in higher prices, fewer choices, or less innovation for UK gamers." The CMA believes that Microsoft's purchase of Activision Blizzard could cut down on competition in the small but growing cloud gaming market, which the regulator states is already 60 to 70 percent controlled by Microsoft.

The CMA also believes Activision Blizzard already controls some key game franchises like the Call of Duty series, and Microsoft's purchase of the publisher could result in those games becoming Microsoft exclusives. It added that, in its opinion, that "could substantially reduce the competition between Xbox and PlayStation in the UK, in turn harming UK gamers."

The CMA stated that it has sent out "possible remedies" to Microsoft and Activision Blizzard, which they must respond to by February 22. Interested parties can submit responses to the study by March 1, and the CMA will issue its final report on the deal on April 26.

The CNBC article includes a response to the CMA study from an Activision Blizzard spokesperson, stating:

We hope between now and April we will be able to help the CMA better understand our industry to ensure they can achieve their stated mandate to promote an environment where people can be confident they are getting great choices and fair deals, where competitive, fair-dealing business can innovate and thrive, and where the whole UK economy can grow productively and sustainably.

Microsoft's corporate vice president and deputy general counsel Rima Alaily also sent a response, stating:

Our commitment to grant long term 100% equal access to Call of Duty to Sony, Nintendo, Steam and others preserves the deal’s benefits to gamers and developers and increases competition in the market.

CNBC also interviewed Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick on its cable TV channel. He blasted the CMA's report, saying that the UK's technology industry could become a "Death Valley" if the merger does not go through.

In previous statements, Microsoft has claimed that after it buys Activision Blizzard, it will offer future Call of Duty games to Sony and Nintendo consoles, and Valve's Steam PC platform, for at least 10 years in terms of "parity on content, pricing, features, quality and playability." It's important to point out that Microsoft has continued to release games in the Minecraft franchise, which it bought in 2014, to Sony and Nintendo consoles.

Source: CMA via CNBC

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