Microsoft / Activision
On October 13 2023, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced that it would clear Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard – subject to final undertakings. The announcement comes twenty months after the deal was publicly announced and follows the notification of a new deal that would address the CMA previously expressed concerns relating to the distribution of Activision Blizzard games via cloud streaming services. During the course of the investigation, the CMA analysed the horizontal overlap between Microsoft and Activision Blizzard in videogame publishing, as well as the vertical relationship between Activision Blizzard publishing activity and Microsoft’s role as a distributor of videogames on PC, Console, Mobile, and the Cloud. The CMA concluded the merger is unlikely to lead to a significant lessening of competition in the UK following Microsoft’s sale of Activision cloud streaming rights to another publisher of videogames: Ubisoft. The CMA press release can be found here.
The deal had been previously cleared by the European Commission on 15 May 2023. The Commission investigated similar aspects to those analysed by the CMA. Approval of the deal is conditional to Microsoft’s commitment to distribute Activision Blizzard games to cloud streaming services in the EEA. The Commission’s press release can be found here.
The CMA’s announcement also follows the decision to clear the acquisition by multiple global agencies including: the State Administration for Market Regulation (China), the Korean Fair Trade Commission, the Japanese Fair Trade Commission, the Administrative Council for Economic Defense (Brazil), the South African Competition Commission, the Fiscalia National Economica (Chile), the New Zealand Commerce Commission, and others. The deal can close in the US following the FTC failed preliminary injunction.
Earlier this year, Elizabeth Bailey, supported by a team of CRA consultants, provided expert testimony and economic analysis on behalf of Microsoft and Activision Blizzard in an evidentiary hearing on a motion for a preliminary injunction that was filed on June 12, 2023 by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the US. To read about their work, click here. Fiona Scott Morton has also advised the parties in the context of the FTC investigation.