Microsoft's Activision Acquisition Hits Unexpected Roadblock from UK Regulators

Sarah Moore


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Microsoft's massive $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard encountered a surprising and potentially devastating setback when the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) decided to block the merger. The CMA expressed concerns that the merger would adversely affect the rapidly evolving cloud gaming market. This unpredictable obstacle raises questions about the acquisition's future, despite Microsoft's intent to appeal the decision.

The CMA's concerns about the Activision Blizzard acquisition initially surfaced in February, when the regulator provisionally opposed the deal due to cloud gaming market implications. However, in a shocking turn of events, the CMA later stated that new evidence suggested the deal wouldn't substantially lessen competition in the UK's console gaming market, primarily concerning the popular Call of Duty franchise. This announcement led many to anticipate approval for the acquisition, but the latest decision has derailed those expectations.

The CMA's objections revolve around Microsoft's significant share of the global cloud gaming market, estimated at 60-70%. The regulator fears that Microsoft's acquisition of Activision Blizzard would result in the exclusivity of games like Call of Duty, Overwatch, and World of Warcraft to its cloud gaming service, thereby reinforcing its market advantage. The CMA also found Microsoft's proposed remedies insufficient, emphasizing that they fail to account for different business models, platform accessibility, and the impact on market competition.

As a result of the CMA's decision, Activision shares have dropped 11%, and both Microsoft and Activision expressed their disappointment with the ruling. Microsoft Vice Chair and President Brad Smith criticized the CMA's understanding of the market and its technology, while Activision called the decision a disservice to UK citizens amid economic challenges. Both companies committed to appealing the decision, signaling that the acquisition is not yet off the table.

In conclusion, the sudden intervention by the UK's Competition and Markets Authority has created uncertainty around Microsoft's proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard. The focus on cloud gaming market implications, rather than access to specific game titles, adds another layer of intrigue to the story. Microsoft and Activision's commitment to appeal the decision suggests that they remain hopeful for a favorable outcome. However, the impact of the CMA's ruling on other regulatory bodies, including the EU and the US, remains to be seen. This unexpected twist in the tale of Microsoft's acquisition of Activision Blizzard has certainly captured the attention of the gaming world, leaving everyone to wonder what the future holds for this mega-deal.


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