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Microsoft Fights for Activision Deal Amid Looming UK Probe

Microsoft has promised to make Call of Duty available on release day on both Xbox and PlayStation in a bid to assuage competition concerns.

Microsoft logo on a phone screen
Microsoft first announced its acquisition of Activision at the beginning of 2022.
Sarah Tew/CNET

Microsoft is battling to keep its deal to purchase gaming giant Activision alive, as a competition probe threatens to throw the acquisition off course. 

Following an initial inquiry, the UK Competition and Markets Authority said on Thursday it's concerned that Microsoft's purchase of Activision could "substantially lessen competition" across the gaming industry. If its current concerns are not addressed, the regulator added, it will open a second investigation to reach a decision on whether it will allow the deal to proceed.

"We are concerned that Microsoft could use its control over popular games like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft post-merger to harm rivals, including recent and future rivals in multi-game subscription services and cloud gaming," said Sorcha O'Carroll, senior director of mergers at the CMA in a statement.

Leaders at Microsoft and Activision announced the all-cash deal back in January. The acquisition, if it goes ahead, will give the Xbox console maker control of one of the biggest video game companies in the world. Activision makes popular series like the war simulation series Call of Duty and the fantasy behemoth World of Warcraft.

Microsoft has rejected the idea that the acquisition will harm its rivals in the consoles and gaming services industry. 

"We're ready to work with the CMA on next steps and address any of its concerns," said  Microsoft President Brad Smith in a statement. "Sony, as the industry leader, says it is worried about Call of Duty, but we've said we are committed to making the same game available on the same day on both Xbox and PlayStation. We want people to have more access to games, not less."