Microsoft’s first preliminary hearing against the FTC will take place on January 3

The first pretrial hearing in the Microsoft vs. FTC case is scheduled for early next week, on January 3, according to Reuters.

As you may already know from our previous reports, the US Federal Trade Commission has decided to legally challenge Microsoft’s deal to acquire Activision Blizzard because it Enables Microsoft to suppress competitors to its Xbox game consoles, rapidly growing subscription content, and cloud gaming business. By controlling Activision’s blockbuster franchises, Microsoft will have the means and motive to harm the competition by manipulating Activision’s pricing, impairing the quality of Activision’s games or player experience on competing consoles and game services, changing the terms and timing of access to Activision content, or blocking content from competitors completely, resulting in harm to consumers.

Microsoft responded just before Christmas with a 37-page document listing allegations of constitutional violations and counterclaims more specific to the FTC’s thesis. Microsoft’s lawyers also took a direct stab at Sony (which has been vocal about the alleged dire implications of the acquisition).

Sony might prefer to protect the revenue it gets from sales of more expensive individual games, but antitrust laws don’t serve to insulate the dominant player in the market and its preferred business model from the competition.

According to a Reuters report, the Federal Trade Commission may find it difficult to prove its thesis in court. Andre Barlow, antitrust attorney at Doyle, Barlow & Mazard PLLC, said:

The legal precedent is not on the part of the FTC. We have at least three judges who have accepted the remedies by the merged parties.

Roger Alford, a law instructor at the University of Notre Dame, added:

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Vertical merger challenges are really hard to win, so it’s going to be an uphill battle for the FTC.

On the other hand, the FTC’s attempt to block the deal likely emboldened other UK and EU regulators, both of which would be difficult to challenge for Microsoft if they decided not to merge.

Meanwhile, the deal has been approved in Chile, after previous approvals in Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Serbia.

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