The acquisition of American computer game developer and publisher Activision Blizzard by technology group Microsoft may lead to higher prices and fewer choices for gamers. After an in-depth investigation, that is the preliminary conclusion of the British competition watchdog CMA.
The American Activision Blizzard is one of the best-known publishers of computer games, with titles such as ‘Call of Duty’, ‘World of Warcraft’ and ‘Overwatch’. Microsoft announced in January last year that it would pay $ 68.7 billion for the company.
The deal was immediately viewed with suspicion. There are fears that Microsoft – with blockbusters such as “Halo” and “Minecraft” in its portfolio – could reserve not only new games but also established Activision titles exclusively for its Xbox game console, at the expense of Japanese rivals Sony with its Playstation and Nintendo with its Switch, whether to offer them to its competitors on much worse terms. Also, Microsoft is strong with its Windows operating system when gaming on the PC.
In the United Kingdom, the CMA launched an in-depth investigation in September. In a preliminary conclusion, the regulator said on Wednesday that the acquisition “could harm British gamers”. Not only does he see disadvantages to “the important rivalry” between Xbox and Playstation, but he is also concerned about the emerging cloud gaming.
According to the CMA, Microsoft already controls 60 to 70 percent of the cloud gaming market, and the company would benefit greatly from keeping Activision’s games to itself and thus attracting more customers. Concerning competition between consoles, the watchdog points out, among other things, that Microsoft has already recruited game developers to only offer their games on its platforms several times in the past.
The CMA specifically mentions “Call of Duty.” Access to the famous war game is essential for the competition between Xbox and PlayStation. “The reduction in competition between Microsoft and Sony may result in higher prices, reduced selection, lower quality and poorer service in game consoles for all gamers,” it read.
Microsoft and Activision now have until the end of February to respond to the CMA’s conclusion and make any proposals. After that, the regulator must be ready with its final judgment by April 26 at the latest. In December, the US competition authority FTC had already started a lawsuit to block the acquisition, the trial of which will take place in August. She also considers a takeover of Activision by Microsoft detrimental to competition between game consoles and subscription services. The European Commission is still conducting its in-depth investigation. She will announce her verdict on April 11.
To appease regulators, Microsoft struck a deal with Nintendo in December to make Call of Duty games available on Switch for a decade, subject to the completion of its Activision acquisition. Sony also received such an offer for its PlayStation, but the Japanese group – which previously criticized the deal – held off the boat. Microsoft also announced that it would continue to offer ‘Call of Duty’ on PC via Valve’s gaming website, Steam.