Microsoft Xbox Activision Blizzard Buyout Brad Smith 1
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Microsoft already tried the charm offensive to get its unfathomable $69 billion buyout of Activision Blizzard past regulators – and now the deal has been blocked by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), it’s just plain gone on the offensive. In an eye-popping interview with the BBC, president Brad Smith said the move was “bad for Britain” and marked the firm’s “darkest day in our four decades” in the country.

With an appeal pending but analysts insinuating it’s unlikely to shift the opinion of regulators, the trillion dollar tech titan has turned to heaping political pressure on the UK government instead. Smith said: “People are shocked, people are disappointed, and people’s confidence in technology in the UK has been severely shaken. There's a clear message here: the European Union is a more attractive place to start a business than the UK.”

Of course, the European Union still has its own regulatory process pending, and while it’s expected the deal will pass on the continent, the same was said to be a formality in the UK up until yesterday. For its part, the government issued a direct response to Smith, particularly his words about the decision being “bad for Britain”, with a spokesperson suggesting the comments “are not borne out by the facts”. It’s worth noting that the CMA is an independent organisation, and not directly part of the government.

Smith proceeded to pile on threats, claiming that Microsoft could reconsider its investment into the UK, and added that the country needs to “look hard at the role of the CMA and the regulatory structure”. But the CMA disagreed: “We want to create an environment where a whole host of different companies can compete effectively, can grow and innovate,” chief executive Sarah Cardell said.

While Sony originally worked hard to block the merger, it was ultimately obstructed due to concerns in the emerging cloud gaming market. Regulators argued that with Microsoft already owning Windows and server infrastructure Azure, the unprecedented acquisition of Activision Blizzard for $69 billion would tip the scales unfairly in its favour.

Whether this tirade from the top of Microsoft will successfully put pressure on the UK government remains to be seen, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that the juggernaut will not go down quietly.