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Microsoft’s Acquisition of Activision ‘Likely’ to Face FTC Lawsuit, Report Says

Microsoft’s chances of completing its $70 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard look a little slimmer this week. Citing three sources familiar with the matter, Politico reports that the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is “likely” to try to block the deal with an antitrust lawsuit.

The news comes as the deal faces rigorous scrutiny from UK and European Union regulators. Governments around the world are eager to rein in the power of big tech companies, and Microsoft’s gaming power move presents them with a big target. FTC Chair Lina Khan has been outspoken in her opposition to potential tech monopolies.

Politico’s sources say the decision has yet to be made, but that “FTC staff reviewing the settlement are skeptical of the companies’ arguments.”

Meanwhile, the war of words between Sony and Microsoft over the deal took an absurd turn on Wednesday when the UK’s regulator, the Competition and Markets Authority, published conflicting statements the two companies had made to their investigators in October. Sony is pleading with regulators to block the deal, saying Microsoft, which controls Activision Blizzard, and in particular the Call of Duty franchise, will kill off competition in the games market.

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Both companies put themselves in the unusual position of being motivated to argue that their opponents are far more successful than they are, and went to great lengths to present themselves as the underdog.

“The suggestion that the current market leader, Sony, with clear and enduring market power, could be squeezed out by the smallest of the three console competitors, Xbox, as a result of losing access to a title, is not it is credible,” Microsoft protested. (He has also strenuously denied that he would do such a thing in the first place; Microsoft games chief Phil Spencer said that Call of Duty would stay on PlayStation “as long as there’s a PlayStation to ship to,” while the company told the New York Times had offered Sony 10 more years of Call of Duty games).

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Microsoft also generously claimed that its own exclusive games were crap compared to Sony’s. “Sony has more exclusive games than Microsoft, many of which are of better quality,” he said, citing “iconic proprietary franchiseslike God of War and Uncharted. PlayStation had “nearly five times as many” exclusive titles as Xbox.

Sony’s response was to trash talk its own subscription service. “Game Pass significantly leads PlayStation Plus” moaned. “Microsoft already has a substantial advantage in multi-game subscription services. Game Pass has 29 million Xbox Game Pass console and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers, and is expected to grow substantially in the future. PlayStation Plus multi-game subscription levels lag considerably,” he humbly added.

Sony also criticized EA’s Battlefield series in passing, arguing that Call of Duty is too popular in its field to compete, should Microsoft make it exclusive. “Even assuming SIE had the capacity and resources to develop a successful franchise similar to Call of Duty,” Sony said, “it would take many, many years and billions of dollars to create a Call of Duty challenge, and the example EA’s Battlefield shows that any such effort is unlikely to succeed.” Shots!

Microsoft aims to complete its acquisition of Activision Blizzard sometime before mid-2023.

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