(Brussels) The takeover of the American video game publisher Activision Blizzard by Microsoft for 69 billion dollars is under threat from Brussels which fears an attack on competition and announced on Tuesday the opening of an in-depth investigation.
The European Commission, guardian of competition in the EU, explained that it feared in particular that Microsoft could “lock access to video games from Activision Blizzard” for consoles and PCs, including the famous “call of Duty” and that it be tempted to put in place “strategies to evict competing distributors”.
Such strategies could lead to “higher prices, lower quality and reduced innovation,” she said in a statement.
The Commission also fears that the marriage of the two giants will reduce competition in the market for PC operating systems. She believes users might be discouraged from buying PCs that don’t run Windows, Microsoft’s system made more attractive by access to Activision Blizzard games.
The EU executive announced that it would “carry out an in-depth investigation into the effects of the operation, in order to determine whether its initial fears are confirmed”.
He now has a period of 90 days, until March 23, 2023 to make a decision. The opening of an in-depth investigation does not prejudge the outcome of the procedure, the Commission said.
In a video game sector in full consolidation, Microsoft, which markets the Xbox console and has several development studios, announced in January the acquisition of Activision Blizzard, also publisher of hits such as “World of Warcraft” and “Candy Crush”. for 69 billion dollars, a record sum for the sector.
The operation should propel the American technology giant to third place in the world in this industry in terms of turnover, behind Chinese Tencent and Japanese Sony, maker of the PlayStation.
“We continue to work with the European Commission on next steps and to address legitimate market concerns,” a Microsoft spokesperson said on Tuesday.
“Sony, as an industry leader, says they’re worried about Call of Duty, but we said we’re committed to making the same game available the same day on Xbox and PlayStation. We want people to have more access to games, not less,” he said.
For his part, the CEO of Activision Blizzard Bobby Kotick, said he was confident that the operation would be completed by June 2023, as planned.
He pointed out that the group had already obtained the green light from countries such as Brazil.
But, before Brussels, the United Kingdom’s competition policeman announced in September the opening of an in-depth investigation.
“Given that so many of the world’s largest companies are now competing in the nearly $200 billion gaming industry, it’s understandable that regulators are trying to better understand this industry,” he said. Mr Kotick.
The proposed takeover by Microsoft comes at a time when Activision Blizzard is going through a difficult patch.
It reported Monday a 32% drop in net profit and a 14% drop in sales in the fourth quarter of its fiscal year.