Today marks another exciting turn of events in the never-ending Microsoft x Activision Blizzard saga. Yesterday, the US Federal Trade Commission announced its decision to file a lawsuit to block the deal, because, in its view, it would enable Microsoft to “suppress competitors to its Xbox consoles, rapidly growing subscription content and cloud gaming business.”
To bolster its argument, the FTC cited in its complaint that Microsoft had lied to the EU regulator regarding future exclusivity of ZeniMax games when that deal was liquidated. This is an excerpt from the FTC statement:
[…] The FTC cited Microsoft’s record of acquiring and using valuable game content to suppress competition from rival consoles, including its acquisition of ZeniMax, the parent company of Bethesda Softworks (a popular game developer). Microsoft decided to make several Bethesda titles including Starfield and Redfall Microsoft exclusives despite assurances it gave European antitrust authorities that it had no incentive to withhold games from competing consoles.
However, investigative news agency MLex contacted the EU regulator today and received a response essentially scolding the FTC on the matter. The article is behind the paywall, but ResetEra user Idas (original poster for the official forum thread on the Microsoft x Activision Blizzard deal) reported its content on the board. You can find it in full below.
The agency said in response to US concerns that Microsoft did not mislead the European Union about the ZeniMax deal
The European Commission said Microsoft made no “commitments” to EU regulators not to release Xbox-exclusive content after its takeover of ZeniMax Media.
US law enforcement suggested yesterday that the US tech giant misled the regulator in 2021 and cited this as a reason to challenge its proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard.
“The Commission unconditionally liquidated the Microsoft/ZeniMax deal because it concluded that the deal would not raise competition concerns,” the EU watchdog said in an emailed statement.
said the committee, which has opened an in-depth investigation into the Activision Blizzard deal and appears eager to clarify what happened in the previous acquisition.
The EU agency found that even if Microsoft restricted access to ZeniMax titles, it would not have a significant impact on competition because competitors would not be denied access to “basic input”, and other consoles would still have a “large collection” of attractive content.
We contacted Idas for proof of the original article. Idas gave them kindly. However, we have contacted the European Union to receive official confirmation of the statement and will update this story if we hear back.
Microsoft and Activision Blizzard announced that they had reached a deal for the former to acquire the latter for approximately $68 billion on January 18, 2022. Sony has been waging a fierce PR war to declare that allowing the deal to happen would endanger competitors and consumers alike.
Some countries are already brandishing it, like Brazil, Serbia and Saudi Arabia. Others, like the UK and EU, are conducting a deeper investigation into the deal, which originally targeted a June 2023 closing date. That date is sure to prove unrealistic if Microsoft and Activision end up fighting the FTC in court as promised. to do so unless the US regulator backs off.