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Microsoft's revamped Activision Blizzard deal seals approval in the UK

UK regulator the Competition Markets Authority (CMA) has approved Microsoft’s reworked Activision Blizzard merger, paving the way for the deal to be completed.

The CMA described the new-look proposal as a “game changer that will promote competition.”

Microsoft’s original deal was blocked by the CMA over concerns it would stifle cloud gaming competition, prompting the Xbox maker to transfer Activision Blizzard’s cloud gaming rights to French publisher Ubisoft for the next 15 years in a bid to alleviate those fears.

After agreeing to hand those rights to Ubisoft should the deal gain approval, Microsoft resubmitted what it claimed was a “substantially different transaction” to the CMA.

The CMA has framed that fresh approach as a “concession” that it believes will preserve competition prices and better services for consumers, and has painted its subsequentapproval as a regulatory win.

“[The] CMA holding firm preserves competitive prices and better services in cloud gaming,” it wrote in a press release shared on the UK government website. “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 multi-game 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.”

CMA paints approval as aregulatory win that will prevent Microsoft “stranglehold”

CMA chief executive Sarah Cardell said the regulator had been “resolute” in its determination to prevent mergers that harm competition and deliver bad outcomes for consumers and businesses.

“We delivered a clear message to Microsoft that the deal would be blocked unless they comprehensively addressed our concerns and stuck to our guns on that,” she said, before suggesting the CMA has stopped the U.S. tech giant from securing a “stranglehold” over the nascent cloud gaming market.

“Businesses and their advisors should be in no doubt that the tactics employed by Microsoft are no way to engage with the CMA. Microsoft had the chance to restructure during our initial investigation but instead continued to insist on a package of measures that we told them simply wouldn’t work. Dragging out proceedings in this way only wastes time and money.”

Responding to the news in a brief statement, Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick said the Call of Duty publisher now has “all regulatory approvals necessary to close” the transaction.

“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,” continued Kotick.

Microsoft is expected to close the deal imminently, having now overcome high-profile regulatory challenges from the CMA in the UK and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the United States.

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