Microsoft-Activision Deal Raises Eyebrows

Microsoft’s plan to buy Activision Blizzard is facing a series of regulatory challenges. It could mean the company is forced to guarantee titles will remain available on Sony and Nintendo platforms.

The Associated Press notes that although Microsoft revealed the $68.7 billion deal seven months ago, it’s so far only had regulatory approval in Saudi Arabia.

The problem is that many of the most attractive elements for Microsoft are also the most concerning for competition chiefs. Having control of both a major gaming platform and many of the leading games has obvious advantages for Microsoft, but regulators are asking if that would be too much control.

The United Kingdom is just one of many countries looking at the deal. Its Competitions and Markets Authority has explicitly said it’s worried both that Microsoft could use the control to harm rivals and that it would have an unfair advantage in the developing market for multi-game subscriptions. It says if it doesn’t hear from Microsoft this week to address those concerns, it will move to a more in-depth investigation.

One way to head off those concerns is for Microsoft to commit to making games available on rival platforms. Sony has already told regulators in Brazil that it fears Call of Duty being withdrawn from PlayStations, arguing that the game is so established that no amount of money could create an adequate replacement.

Microsoft has said it will keep Activision titles available on PlayStation “into the future” but regulators may want promise made into a legally binding commitment such as a consent decree.