Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard, the largest acquisition in the history of the gaming industry, proved to be a Sisyphean task. The company’s competitors, Sony in particular, were vocally opposed to the acquisition; even some gamers disapproved. Microsoft appeared to have overcome the majority of obstacles on its path to acquiring the world’s first independent game developer.
As reported by Reuters, Microsoft is expected to receive EU antitrust approval for its (nearly) $70 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard (AKB) due to the company’s extensive offers and licencing agreements with rivals. In addition to licencing agreements, Microsoft may have to address other antitrust concerns raised by other gaming industry players, notably Sony, but the company would not sell the Call of Duty franchise, which would retain its annual release schedule, if it acquired Activision.
In fact, gaming releases such as Call of Duty and the forthcoming Diablo 4 are the primary cause for the majority of Microsoft’s competitors’ complaints regarding the acquisition. If Microsoft acquired Activision Blizzard, it would manage the entire roster of ABK’s intellectual properties. This means that games such as Call of Duty and Diablo, which were enjoyed on multiple platforms, could become Xbox and PC exclusives. Console manufacturers, whose platforms depend on gaming releases, stand to lose a great deal if this occurs.
Phil Spencer, the head of Microsoft Gaming, previously refuted such rumours, stating that the company intends to offer as many ABK titles as possible within Game Pass, but that they will not be restricted on other platforms. Microsoft offered Call of Duty licencing deals to its competitors, including Sony, in order to appease the competition and various antitrust committees formed to examine the acquisition. The company also stated that it intends to grant all of its competitors long-term, equal access to Call of Duty and all other ABK franchises.
If true, and with Microsoft offering identical deals to everyone, the company has the potential to increase market competition, which will ultimately benefit developers and gamers. Microsoft signed 10-year licencing agreements with Nintendo and Nvidia regarding Call of Duty last month. The agreements are contingent on the acquisition being approved, so it is evident that the company is pushing for the acquisition to be approved.
Sony is the only party who requires convincing at this time, as everyone else has received the same offer. Sony remained the largest opponent of the acquisition, with the most to lose if Microsoft removed Call of Duty from PlayStation. Microsoft, however, managed to turn the tables on Sony by subpoenaing its competitor. Sony must now provide Microsoft with exclusivity agreements and four years’ worth of company records, which, according to the defence, will help make a case for the proposed acquisition. Sony actually did it first.
Microsoft continues to strike deals with its rivals, whereas Sony’s efforts to thwart the acquisition are, at best, futile. Microsoft has a good chance of completing the acquisition of ABK, despite the obstacles it has encountered.