Call of Duty Activision Blizzard Microsoft UK Government CMA
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Microsoft’s eye-watering $69 billion proposal to purchase Activision Blizzard has been the source of intense scrutiny from global governments for nearly a year now, but the UK’s regulator has released a provisional report today which says it “could harm gamers” and potentially result in “higher prices, fewer choices, or less innovation”. While it’s not a knockout blow for the buyout by any means, it’ll undoubtedly prove gloomy news for the trillion dollar Redmond firm.

“The provisional findings from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) follow a wide-ranging investigation conducted over the last five months to understand the market and potential impact of the deal,” a press release states. “This has included holding site visits and hearings to hear directly from business leaders at Microsoft and Activision, analysing over three million internal documents from the two businesses to understand their views on the market, commissioning an independent survey of UK gamers, and gathering evidence from a range of other gaming console providers, game publishers, and cloud gaming service providers.”

According to the CMA’s findings, the merger “could make Microsoft even stronger in cloud gaming, stifling competition in this growing market and harming UK gamers who cannot afford expensive consoles”. It adds that agreeing to the acquisition could also “harm UK gamers by weakening the important rivalry between Xbox and PlayStation gaming consoles”.

It explained: “Xbox and PlayStation compete closely with each other at present and access to the most important content, like Call of Duty, is an important part of that competition. Reducing this competition between Microsoft and Sony could result in all gamers seeing higher prices, reduced range, lower quality, and worse service in gaming consoles over time.”

Microsoft, for its part, has responded swiftly – reiterating its commitment to releasing Call of Duty on PlayStation platforms for at least ten years. “Our commitment to grant long term 100 per cent 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. What does 100 percent mean? When we say equal, we mean equal. 10 years of parity. On content. On pricing. On features. On quality. On playability.”

Sony has been dead against the deal, appealing to regulators that Call of Duty has no equal, and claiming that its potential removal from PlayStation platforms would massively impact its ability to compete. One proposed remedy for Microsoft may be to break up the deal, allowing it to purchase the remainder of Activision Blizzard while Call of Duty remains independent. Either way, with other government bodies like the United States’ Federal Trade Commission and European Union’s European Commission also investigating this deal, there’s a lot of mileage left in this story yet.