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FTC moves to block Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard

The FTC has announced its intent to move to block Microsoft’s attempt to acquire Activision Blizzard, stating that “Microsoft has already shown that it can and will withhold content from its gaming rivals.”

A statement from the FTC confirms that the Commission will be intervening in an attempt to prevent Microsoft from acquiring Activision Blizzard. “In a complaint issued today, the FTC pointed to Microsoft’s record of acquiring and using valuable gaming content to suppress competition from rival consoles, including its acquisition of ZeniMax, parent company of Bethesda Softworks (a well-known game developer),” the statements says. “Microsoft decided to make several of Bethesda’s titles including Starfield and Redfall Microsoft exclusives despite assurances it had given to European antitrust authorities that it had no incentive to withhold games from rival consoles.”

Holly Vedova, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition adds that Microsoft “has already shown that it can and will withhold content from its gaming rivals” with those titles. “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.”

FTC moves to block Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard deal

The decision was a 3-1 vote from the four-person FTC panel, despite sources having recently suggested a possible 2-2 split vote which might have allowed the deal to progress unchallenged. While this news does not necessarily spell the end for the acquisition, it will certainly draw it out as the matter goes to court — an eventuality for which Microsoft has apparently already been preparing. It’s also likely that the original proposed time frame for completion of the deal will have taken into account challenges such as this to some extent, but it will remain to be seen how much longer this could delay a possible approval of the deal, especially if EU and UK regulators decide to follow the FTC’s lead with this.

“Activision currently has a strategy of offering its games on many devices regardless of producer,” the complaint continues. “But that could change if the deal is allowed to proceed. With control over Activision’s blockbuster franchises, Microsoft would have both the means and motive to harm competition by manipulating Activision’s pricing, degrading Activision’s game quality or player experience on rival consoles and gaming services, changing the terms and timing of access to Activision’s content, or withholding content from competitors entirely, resulting in harm to consumers.”

What do you make of the FTC’s decision? Let us know!

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