One of the biggest gaming stories of 2022 broke near the start of the year. Microsoft made a bid to acquire the gaming juggernaut that is Activision/Blizzard. The purchase, worth over $68 billion, would put gaming franchises such as “Call of Duty,” “Diablo,” “Overwatch,” and others under the auspices of Microsoft. Like with all major corporate mergers or acquisitions, government approval needs to be issued.
Almost a year after the news broke, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is aiming to stop the purchase from happening.
In the United States in order for mergers or corporate acquisitions to occur, two governmental bodies have to review it. One of them is the FTC the other is the Department of Justice. The FTC voted 3-1 against the acquisition, and is suing to stop it from happening. This means that the ultimate approval will have to be through the Federal court system or through a special hearing in-front of an FTC administrative law judge. The announcement comes off the heels of another governmental agency fighting against the purchase, this one being the European Commission for the EU.
What this effectively means within the bounds of the United States is the FTC and Microsoft will have to present their arguments as to why this merger should or should not happen. Microsoft will likely insist the merger will offer a better deal to gamers since their wealth of resources can help provide for better gaming experiences in Activision/Blizzard titles. The FTC on the other hand will argue that this purchase would hurt consumers by limiting competition in the marketplace.
Indeed that’s already what the latter is arguing. “Microsoft has already shown that it can and will withhold content from its gaming rivals,” Holly Vedova, FTC Director of Bureau of Competition, said. “Today we seek to stop Microsoft from gaining control over a leading independent game studio and using it to harm competition in multiple dynamic and fast-growing gaming markets.”
It’s an interesting argument to make considering one could easily say withholding content from gaming rivals has been the point of console wars for decades. It could be Microsoft’s previous acquisition of Bethesda/ZeniMax played a factor; grabbing multiple large gaming developers as a bridge too far for the FTC, getting Microsoft closer to a possible monopoly situation.
We’ll provide updates as news continues to break on this staggering development.