Microsoft acquisition of Activision Blizzard ‘could harm competition’ – watchdog

Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of gaming company Activision Blizzard could lead to higher prices, fewer choices or less innovation for UK gamers, according to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

In the preliminary findings of its five-month investigation into the $68.7bn (£56.7bn) deal, the CMA said the merger could make Microsoft stronger, stifle competition and reduce Xbox rivalry. console and Sony’s PlayStation.

Activision Blizzard is the creator of a number of popular video game series, including Call Of Duty, and rivals have raised concerns that the acquisition of Activision could limit their access to the hugely popular franchise – something Microsoft has denied.

The CMA said it felt buying one of the world’s major game publishers would strengthen Microsoft’s strong position and significantly reduce the competition Microsoft would otherwise face in the UK cloud gaming market, as well as in console gaming, if access to certain games on other platforms is reduced.

The competition watchdog said it has sent affected parties a notice of potential solutions to address its preliminary concerns, and has asked for a response by February 22, ahead of the release of the CMA’s full report on April 26.

Martin Coleman, chair of the independent panel of experts leading the investigation into the deal, said: “It is estimated that there are around 45 million gamers in the UK, and people in the UK spend more on gaming than on any other form of entertainment. then. music, movies, tv and books.

“Strong competition between Xbox and PlayStation has defined the console gaming market for the past 20 years. Exciting new developments in cloud gaming give gamers even more choice.

“It is our job to ensure that UK gamers don’t get caught in the crossfire of global deals that over time could hurt competition and result in higher prices, fewer choices or less innovation. We have tentatively found that this may be the case here.

“We also sent the companies an explanation today of how our concerns can be resolved, inviting them to express their views and any alternative proposals they wish to submit.”

Rima Alaily, Microsoft vice president and deputy general counsel, said in response, “We are committed to providing effective and easily enforceable solutions that address the concerns of the CMA.

“Our long-term commitment to provide 100% equal access to Call Of Duty to Sony, Nintendo, Steam and others preserves the benefits of the deal for gamers and developers and increases competition in the marketplace.

“Seventy-five percent of respondents to the CMA’s public consultation agree that this deal is good for competition in gaming in the UK.”

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