Microsoft's Potential Acquisition of Activision Blizzard: What This Means for Gamers
The court’s decision removes the hurdle of the FTC, however, across the pond, Microsoft still faces pushback from regulators in the United Kingdom who argue that the deal could stifle competition in the cloud gaming market.
The sun finally came out for Microsoft. On 11 July, Judge Jacqueline Corley ruled in favor of the Redmond, Washington-based company in its dispute against the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over the purchase of Activision Blizzard, one of the world's largest video game developers. An appeal by the FTC to temporarily halt the deal was denied by an appellate court late last week.
With these decisions, the tech giant is now one step closer to closing the $69 billion acquisition deal, which was first announced back in January 2022.
The court's decision removes the hurdle of the FTC, however, across the pond, Microsoft still faces pushback from regulators in the United Kingdom who argue that the deal could stifle competition in the cloud gaming market. And Microsoft is reportedly in talks to extend the deal deadline, which expires today, 18 July, to ensure that no one else scoops up Activision Blizzard while negotiations are ironed out.
But with all this legal back and forth, it can be easy to forget a segment of the population that will be most impacted by a potential acquisition of Activision Blizzard: the gamers.
Here's a look at what video game players can expect from a potential buyout.
How the deal impacts players
In theory, the biggest beneficiaries of Microsoft's purchase of Activision are gamers with Xbox consoles. Xbox Game Pass subscribers will likely be able to enjoy the entire catalog of video games that Activision Blizzard has created, a move similar to what Microsoft did when it acquired the rights to video game publisher Bethesda in 2020.
On the other hand, those without an Xbox, such as fans of Sony PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, as well as smartphone gamers, could also feel the negative impact of a potential deal. For example, popular titles such as Starfield and Redfall may not be coming to PlayStation.
Perhaps the most interesting storyline unraveling from this potential deal is the future of the Call of Duty franchise, which is developed by Activision. According to the ruling, measures were taken so that there will be no exclusivity for the video game for at least 10 years. This means that PlayStation 5 players will be able to continue enjoying this video game without restrictions, for now, but when the time comes, it is likely to stop being available on Sony consoles.
In addition, Microsoft has signed several agreements to bring other video games such as Crash Bandicoot, Diablo and Overwatch to other platforms outside of PlayStation.
All this plays against Sony, who has been struggling for several years to position its PlayStation Plus service, something that is a far cry from what Xbox Game Pass could potentially be able to offer after a potential acquisition of Activision. Such a move could also serve to pressure Sony to accept external services within its subscription program, leaving its players adrift.
In fact, last year a group of 10 gamers sued Microsoft. The lawsuit argues that the acquisition will give the tech giant enough influence at multiple levels of the video game industry "to foreclose rivals, limit production, reduce consumer choice, increase prices and further inhibit competition," among other things. "Microsoft already controls one of the most popular and largest video game ecosystems in the industry," the lawsuit alleges.
Indeed a potential acquisition could position Microsoft as a behemoth in the video game space with few (if any) rivals, after bringing the largest collection of must-have titles under its control.
For their part, representatives from Microsoft and Activision Blizzard, as expected, claim that the potential merger would benefit video game consumers.
After Judge Corley's ruling last week, Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick said, “Our merger will benefit consumers and workers. It will enable competition rather than allow entrenched market leaders to continue to dominate our rapidly growing industry.”
And Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer said, “The evidence showed the Activision Blizzard deal is good for the industry…”
Of course, the FTC and competitors like Sony very much disagree.
“We are disappointed in this outcome given the clear threat this merger poses to open competition in cloud gaming, subscription services, and consoles,” Douglas Farrar, a spokesperson for the FTC, told Vox after the court ruling. As of Monday, the FTC is reportedly still seeking any legal avenues it can to stop the deal, and Microsoft is seeking to extend the 18 July deadline for the deal.