United Kingdom regulators were effectively the last hurdle stopping Microsoft from purchasing Activision Blizzard, in the biggest merger the video game industry has ever seen. That hurdle was cleared this morning as the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority relented to adjusted terms. With the nearly $70 billion purchase now officially complete, Microsoft unveiled a victory blog post, complete with an extended showcase of its now-combined intellectual property with Activision, Blizzard, and King.
The CMA’s sticking points included Microsoft’s prospective dominance in the unfolding game streaming market, and Microsoft’s concessions were deep. When it initially blocked the merger early this year, regulators said that the combined publishing giant could effectively monopolize games streamed to consumers without the need for local PCs or consoles, as is already the case with Xbox Game Stream and the all-you-can-eat Game Pass subscription.
Microsoft’s concessions to the UK include a block on exclusivity for cloud streaming for all existing Activision games, crucially including the massive Call of Duty shooter franchise. The block will continue for 15 years, with streaming rights sold (or surrendered, depending on your point of view) to French mega-publisher Ubisoft. Significantly, this will allow Call of Duty to be streamed to players on the PlayStation for the foreseeable future.
With the UK and EU obstacles out of the way, the United States Federal Trade Commission is the only remaining regulatory body to object to the Microsoft deal. But a federal judge denied the FTC’s attempt to pre-emptively block the deal from going through, meaning that any regulatory action will take place after the merger is completed. Hence the celebration from executives at Microsoft and Activision: the Xbox maker’s biggest video game acquisition by far, more than a year and a half in the making, is over.
Microsoft has been on a spending spree for the better part of a decade, buying studios like Fallout, Doom, and Elder Scrolls publisher Bethesda, Minecraft maker Mojang, Obsidian Entertainment, and a handful of smaller developers, all in an attempt to bolster the Xbox platform and Game Pass service. Activision Blizzard is not the untouchable fan favorite it used to be, as controversies around declining quality and anti-consumer practices have shattered gamers’ faith in Blizzard in particular. But it’s impossible to deny that Microsoft has strengthened its position with this deal, particularly against its console rival (and the market leader by a mile) Sony.
Michael is a former graphic designer who’s been building and tweaking desktop computers for longer than he cares to admit. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order.