The Federal Trade Commission announced today their intent to block Microsoft’s attempted purchase of Activision Blizzard King.
It was announced in January that the tech giant Microsoft intended to buy mega-publisher Activision Blizzard King for nearly $70 million. With the purchase, Microsoft would own all the rights to the games and franchise IPs under Activision Blizzard King, including Call of Duty. Call of Duty has been a sticking point as Sony, Microsoft’s chief rival in the gaming landscape, claims that seeing their key competitor own the rights to the mega-franchise is bad for gamers everywhere.
“Microsoft has already shown that it can and will withhold content from its gaming rivals,” said Holly Vedova, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition. “Today we seek to stop Microsoft from gaining control over a leading independent game studio and using it to harm competition in multiple dynamic and fast-growing gaming markets.”
One key point in the FTC’s press release concerns the release of future Bethesda titles under the Microsoft banner:
“In a complaint issued today, the FTC pointed to Microsoft’s record of acquiring and using valuable gaming content to suppress competition from rival consoles, including its acquisition of ZeniMax, parent company of Bethesda Softworks (a well-known game developer). Microsoft decided to make several of Bethesda’s titles including Starfield and Redfall Microsoft exclusives despite assurances it had given to European antitrust authorities that it had no incentive to withhold games from rival consoles.”
If Microsoft intended to make Starfield and Redfall available on multiple platforms and lied about it, the FTC has an argument. Of course, Microsoft can easily claim that they’re releasing these titles on Xbox consoles and Steam.
A chief argument the FTC Makes is how Microsoft’s purchase of Activision Blizzard will curb healthy competition:
“But that could change if the deal is allowed to proceed. With control over Activision’s blockbuster franchises, Microsoft would have both the means and motive to harm competition by manipulating Activision’s pricing, degrading Activision’s game quality or player experience on rival consoles and gaming services, changing the terms and timing of access to Activision’s content, or withholding content from competitors entirely, resulting in harm to consumers.”
The news comes two days after Phil Spencer announced Microsoft’s intention to keep Call of Duty on Steam for the next ten years. He also plans to bring the series back to Nintendo consoles.
The FTC is moving forward with its attempt to block the deal after a 3-1 vote in favor.