The UK competition regulator has dropped a key concern about the impact of Microsoft’s $75 billion (€70bn) acquisition of video game-maker Activision Blizzard on rival Sony, clearing a substantial roadblock to approving the deal.
After reviewing what it called “new evidence”, the Competition and Markets Authority said on Friday it no longer believed there was a risk of a “substantial lessening of competition” in the console market from the maker of Xbox consoles taking over the publisher of the best-selling Call of Duty franchise. The authority is still investigating the impact on competition in cloud gaming, which is also now the EU’s main focus.
The surprise reversal by one of the world’s most aggressive antitrust bodies will ease the path to Microsoft closing the deal. It leaves the US Federal Trade Commission – which filed to block the deal in December – as its largest remaining regulatory barrier.
The Competition and Markets Authority’s abrupt turnaround comes after Microsoft accused the agency of making mistakes in its financial modelling which undermined its assessment that the company would be motivated to cut off console rivals’ access to the game.
One leading antitrust lawyer said: “This is a very unusual development. In CMA-era cases there has only been one other occurrence of ‘updated’ provisional findings that I’m aware of.”
“This is extremely unusual,” said an ex-CMA lawyer. “Restating your provisional findings is something you would rather die than do.” – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2023