EU Scrutinizes Microsoft Acquisition of Activision Blizzard

The $68.7 billion deal is facing more regulatory hurdles.

Corinne Reichert Senior Editor
Corinne Reichert (she/her) grew up in Sydney, Australia and moved to California in 2019. She holds degrees in law and communications, and currently writes news, analysis and features for CNET across the topics of electric vehicles, broadband networks, mobile devices, big tech, artificial intelligence, home technology and entertainment. In her spare time, she watches soccer games and F1 races, and goes to Disneyland as often as possible.
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Corinne Reichert
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The European Commission has reportedly probed rival gaming companies on Microsoft's proposed $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard as it scrutinizes the deal.

EU regulators asked other game developers whether they think Microsoft could potentially block their access to Activision Blizzard's games following the acquisition, Reuters reported Thursday, citing an EU document it saw. It also asked rivals whether the user data gained by Microsoft through the acquisition could give the US company a competitive advantage in console and computer games development and distribution.

Microsoft filed its proposed acquisition with the European Commission last week. The provisional deadline for whether the EU will clear the acquisition is Nov. 8.

"The European Commission's review of the deal is progressing in line with the expected regulatory schedule and process, and we remain confident that the acquisition will close in fiscal year 2023," a Microsoft spokesperson told CNET in an emailed statement.

The takeover is also under scrutiny by regulators in the UK, with the UK's Competition and Markets Authority saying last month it's concerned Microsoft's purchase of Activision could "substantially lessen competition" across the gaming industry.

"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," Sorcha O'Carroll, senior director of mergers at the CMA, said in a statement.

Microsoft said it's ready to work with the CMA to address its concerns.

"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," said Microsoft President Brad Smith.

Earlier this year, Microsoft also downplayed concerns over the acquisition by telling regulators in New Zealand that Activision Blizzard doesn't make any "must-have" games. In response to New Zealand's Commerce Commission, Microsoft said Activision Blizzard's games are "nothing unique." 

Microsoft later said this language was a "legal term of art" and not a judgment of Activision Blizzard's games. "We love every one of their games and have enormous admiration and respect for the creative talent behind them," a Microsoft spokesperson told CNET in August.

If approved, the acquisition would give the Xbox maker control of one of the biggest video game companies in the world. Some of the games Activision Blizzard makes include Call of Duty and World of Warcraft.

The European Commission and Activision Blizzard didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Correction, Nov. 23: This story earlier gave an incorrect figure for the deal. It is valued at $68.7 billion.