We’re on the cusp of peak corporate pettiness, so batten down the hatches and brace yourselves, because the Federal Trade Commission’s attempt to temporarily halt Microsoft’s unfathomable $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard is about to get underway. A number of high-profile witnesses have been called to comment, including PlayStation’s very own Jim Ryan.
And in new, mostly redacted documentation, the FTC appears poised to argue that Xbox’s decision to make Bethesda titles like Starfield and Redfall exclusive is “powerful evidence of incentive to foreclosure”. In other words, the US regulator is going to claim that the Redmond manufacturer may attempt to take Activision Blizzard games away from PlayStation as well.
As it summarises: “Microsoft's actions following its 2021 acquisition of Zenimax’s speak louder than Defendants' words. Defendants put great stock in Microsoft’s concerns about 'infuriating gamers' if it were to foreclose rivals’ access to Activision content. But those same concerns did not stop the Zenimax decision.”
Of course, the elephant in the room here is that Microsoft has offered Sony – and various other platform holders – a contract which it promises will keep Call of Duty games on PlayStation platforms for at least the next ten years. There is, however, still debate about what would occur beyond that decade – and also what would transpire with other Activision Blizzard properties, like Crash Bandicoot and Diablo.
The FTC’s case is slightly different to the pending appeal against the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority, as the latter has blocked the deal on the basis of cloud gaming concerns. That case is scheduled to be reviewed on 24th July, which means we’ve got well over a month of corporate courtroom drama to look forward to. Yay?