Microsoft’s long-running pursuit of Activision Blizzard looks set to end today after the UK finally cleared the deal and stock in the Call of Duty maker was halted.
In April, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) blocked the acquisition, citing competition concerns around cloud gaming. Since then, Microsoft has defeated the U.S.’s Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in court, obtained approval from key regulator the European Commission, and secured an agreement with console rival Sony for the provision of Activision games on PlayStation for a decade.
In August, Microsoft submitted a new Activision Blizzard deal for review to the CMA that involves selling off Activision’s cloud gaming rights to Assassin’s Creed maker Ubisoft, which would be free to port cloud versions of Activision Blizzard games to any platform.
Now, the CMA has cleared the tweaked $69 billion deal — the largest in video game history — and paved the way for Microsoft to buy Activision. The CMA framed its decision as a victory for the preservation of competitive prices and better services in cloud gaming. “In August this year Microsoft made a concession that would see Ubisoft, instead of Microsoft, buy Activision’s cloud gaming rights,” the CMA said. “This new deal will put the cloud streaming rights (outside the EEA) for all of Activision’s PC and console content produced over the next 15 years in the hands of a strong and independent competitor with ambitious plans to offer new ways of accessing that content.
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“The new deal will stop Microsoft from locking up competition in cloud gaming as this market takes off, preserving competitive prices and services for UK cloud gaming customers. It will allow Ubisoft to offer Activision’s content under any business model, including through multigame subscription services. It will also help to ensure that cloud gaming providers will be able to use non-Windows operating systems for Activision content, reducing costs and increasing efficiency.”
Brad Smith, Vice Chair and President, Microsoft, said: “We’re grateful for the CMA’s thorough review and decision today. We have now crossed the final regulatory hurdle to close this acquisition, which we believe will benefit players and the gaming industry worldwide.
Meanwhile, trading in shares in Activision Blizzard were halted alongside the alert “news pending”, suggesting the deal is set to close imminently.
Activision Blizzard boss Bobby Kotick emailed staff to hail the news. “We now have all regulatory approvals necessary to close and we look forward to bringing joy and connection to even more players around the world,” Kotick said.
“Our board chair Brian Kelly and I are incredibly proud of all of you and your accomplishments over the last four decades. We’re excited for our next chapter together with Microsoft and the endless possibilities it creates for you and for our players.”
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When the deal closes, Microsoft will own the likes of Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, and Candy Crush. Xbox is expected to add many of Activision Blizzard’s games into its subscription service, Game Pass, although Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 and Diablo 4 will be held back until next year.
However, the FTC is soldiering on with its attempt to unravel the deal, despite losing its high-profile court case in the summer. The FTC is waiting for a decision on its trial verdict appeal before moving forward with its own in-house trial, although both will come after Microsoft seals the deal.
And in a new development, the FTC filed a submission to re-open discovery in order to gain more information on Microsoft’s cloud gaming divestiture deal with Ubisoft, and its deal with Sony to ensure Call of Duty remains on PlayStation consoles.
Wesley is the UK News Editor for IGN. Find him on Twitter at @wyp100. You can reach Wesley at firstname.lastname@example.org or confidentially at email@example.com.
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