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Microsoft-Activision | London casts new shadow over merger



(London) The British competition regulator (CMA) also expressed concerns on Wednesday about the potentially negative impact for consumers of the proposed takeover of the American video game publisher Activision Blizzard by its compatriot, the giant Microsoft.

In addition to the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union (EU) are concerned about this mega-merger: the United States competition authority (FTC) launched legal proceedings in December to block the operation and the EU has opened an investigation into whether the acquisition would make Activision’s games exclusive to Xbox, a console marketed by Microsoft.

The British regulator could later decide on corrective measures such as partial disposals of assets, or even decide on an outright ban on the operation.

The “CMA concludes in a preliminary manner that the acquisition of Activision proposed by Microsoft could result in higher prices, less choice and less innovation for British gamers”, details the regulator in a press release.

He announced in mid-September the opening of an in-depth investigation into this $69 billion operation, a record sum for the sector, made public in early 2022.

In its statement Wednesday, the CMA said preliminary findings from its investigation show that buying one of the world’s largest game publishers would “strengthen Microsoft’s strong position” and “significantly reduce competition” compared to the one that the American giant would otherwise face in the market for dematerialized games in the United Kingdom.

Altering the future of the sector

“This could alter the future of the games industry, and potentially hurt UK gamers, especially those who don’t want to buy an expensive games console or computer,” the CMA adds.

The acquisition by Microsoft of Activision Blizzard, which publishes in particular the successes call of duty, World of Warcraft And candy Crushwould create the third largest player in the video game industry in terms of turnover, behind Chinese Tencent and Japanese Sony, maker of the PlayStation.

In December, after the launch of the lawsuits in the United States, a senior Microsoft official said he was confident in the ability of his company to carry out the operation despite the procedures of American and European regulators.

Activision Blizzard reacted to the CMA’s announcement on Wednesday by emphasizing that its findings are preliminary, noting that they give “both parties an opportunity to respond,” in a statement obtained by AFP.

“We hope that between now and April we will be able to help CMA better understand our sector,” the company adds.

“We are very confident in our case,” Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, told AFP in December.

He had notably put forward a proposal from Microsoft made at the beginning of December to its Japanese rival Sony, in a column published by the Wall Street Journal, a 10-year agreement providing that any new opus of call of duty released simultaneously on Xbox and PlayStation, Sony’s console.

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