FTC Moves to Block Microsoft Merger of Activision Blizzard

The US agency, Federal Trade Commission (FTC), has filed an antitrust case against Microsoft over the acquisition of Activision Blizzard.

The case was filed last Thursday, December 8, 2022. FTC cites that the merger gives Microsoft an unfair advantage over competition by thwarting their access to popular gaming content.

“With control of Activision’s content, Microsoft would have the ability and increased incentive to withhold or degrade Activision’s content in ways that substantially lessen competition — including competition on product quality, price, and innovation,” the FTC said in its complaint.

However, Vice President of Activision Blizzard says that the Microsoft merger allows popular titles like Call of Duty to be enjoyed by a larger crowed by making them available on diverse consoles.

Microsoft has already made commitments to bring Call of Duty to Steam and Nintendo Switch along with Xbox if the merger goes ahead.

Commissioners voted 3-1 in favor of moving forward with the agency’s administrative complaint.

President of Microsoft, Brad Smit says they will challenge the complaint in court. “While we believed in giving peace a chance, we have complete confidence in our case and welcome the opportunity to present our case in court,” Smith said.

There has been continued pressure from Sony stating that Microsoft will make franchises such as Call of Duty exclusive to Xbox, giving them a competitive advantage over Sony.

Head of Xbox, Phil Spencer responds to this stating that it does not make commercial sense, pointing to Minecraft which is still available on PlayStation and other platforms since the acquisition of the developer by Microsoft in 2014.

PHOTOGRAPH: KEVORK DJANSEZIAN/GETTY IMAGES

“The things I’ve heard and seen written in the press is maybe some intent on our side when we make public commitments to Sony, that our private commitments are untenable or don’t work for partners, or for Sony specifically,” Spencer said. “Maybe some aura gets put around our words that maybe they’re not genuine, [but] when you have a company like Nintendo or a company like Valve believing in the commitment, and reaching agreement with Nintendo on something like this, we think it’s an important point to have out in the market.”

According to Holly Vedova FTC’s Bureau of Competition director, Microsoft is known to withhold content from it’s rivals.

“Today we seek to stop Microsoft from gaining control over a leading independent game studio and using it to harm competition in multiple dynamic and fast-growing gaming markets.” Vedova says in a news release.

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