In a significant breakthrough, the Microsoft Activision Blizzard Acquisition Approval has been announced by the European Commission; which has given their consent for the deal to proceed. This development comes amidst ongoing regulatory scrutiny, with the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the United Kingdom's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) previously throwing substantial obstacles in the path of the acquisition.
The CMA had notably stalled the deal last month, causing a significant setback to Microsoft's plans. The tech giant is now preparing to challenge that decision. However, the situation has taken a positive turn in Brussels, where Microsoft's concessions have successfully swayed the EU regulators.
The EU's approval is primarily rooted in agreements designed to mitigate the acquisition's potential effects on the nascent cloud gaming market, an issue that had been a key concern for the UK regulator. These agreements include a provision that European gamers will be able to stream any Activision Blizzard game they own via any cloud gaming service, and that these services will be able to freely host Activision Blizzard games on their platforms.
In response to this development, Microsoft affirmed that this commitment would be implemented worldwide. Brad Smith, the company's president, stated that this move would enable millions of gamers across the globe to enjoy these games on the device of their choice.
The EU's decision also dispelled previous apprehensions about the acquisition's possible negative impact on rival console manufacturers, such as Sony and Nintendo, as well as game subscription services, including PlayStation Plus. The European Commission ultimately concluded that Microsoft was unlikely to withdraw Activision Blizzard games like Call of Duty from competing consoles, as it would negatively impact their profits - a viewpoint that Microsoft has repeatedly expressed.
Furthermore, the EU said that even if Microsoft decided to remove Call of Duty from PlayStation, Sony would continue to be a competitive force in the market. The European Commission contended that Sony could utilize its extensive game catalog, market position, and size to maintain its competitive edge.
Regarding cloud streaming, the EU concluded that the deal would have minimal impact, as the current market for this technology is relatively small. In fact, the European Commission believes that the acquisition could potentially foster the growth of the cloud gaming sector.
However, the CMA has voiced disagreement with the EU's decision, expressing concerns that it could allow Microsoft to dominate the cloud gaming market for the next decade. The UK regulator argued that the terms and conditions proposed by Microsoft, and accepted by the EU, would result in an industry regulated by Microsoft rather than a free and competitive market.
In contrast, Activision Blizzard has welcomed the European Commission's decision. Bobby Kotick, the CEO of Activision Blizzard, lauded the EU's comprehensive understanding of the gaming industry and stated that the merger with Microsoft, despite necessitating stringent conditions, would encourage robust competition in the fast-growing sector.
He also mentioned plans to expand investments and workforce across the EU, which he believes will enable them to compete effectively on a global scale.
While Microsoft's acquisition bid has made headway in Europe, it still faces a formidable challenge in the UK following the CMA's block. The appeal process, which can take up to nine months, involves Microsoft proving that the CMA acted unfairly or that the regulator's process was flawed.
The European approval provides Microsoft with a much-needed boost, but the company still has to tackle the FTC's legal action, slated for this summer. The tech giant's ambition to acquire Activision Blizzard hangs in the balance, with the outcome of these regulatory hurdles poised to shape the future of the gaming industry.
Regardless of the European Commission's approval, Microsoft's aspirations for the acquisition of Activision Blizzard are far from being realized. According to Eurogamer, The next major hurdle lies in the impending legal action from the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC). This summer, Microsoft will need to convince the FTC that this acquisition will not stifle competition in the gaming industry, a significant undertaking given the size and influence of both Microsoft and Activision Blizzard.
The FTC's decision will likely hinge on many of the same issues that the European Commission and the UK's CMA examined, primarily focusing on the acquisition's potential effects on the cloud gaming market. The FTC will also likely evaluate how the deal might affect other gaming platforms, notably the PlayStation and Nintendo consoles.
Meanwhile, Microsoft's appeal against the UK's CMA block will unfold. Microsoft will face the daunting task of demonstrating unfair treatment or flaws in the CMA's process. Success in this appeal is crucial for Microsoft as a failure would deal another significant blow to the acquisition hopes, and may even have ripple effects on the pending FTC decision.
Despite the uncertainties, Activision Blizzard remains optimistic. The company believes the merger will bring significant benefits to players worldwide, particularly in Europe.
While Microsoft has secured a significant victory with the European Commission's approval, the road to finalizing the Activision Blizzard acquisition is still steep and fraught with challenges. The decisions of the FTC and the outcome of the CMA appeal will be pivotal in determining whether the deal will ultimately succeed or fail.
The implications of these decisions extend beyond just Microsoft and Activision Blizzard. The rulings will send ripples across the gaming industry, potentially influencing future acquisitions and shaping the evolution of the rapidly growing cloud gaming market. As Microsoft continues its quest to acquire Activision Blizzard, the global gaming community watches in anticipation, awaiting the decisions that will clearly impact the entire future of the gaming industry.