The UK regulator Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has announced that it has provisionally agreed to approve Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard. The CMA was one of the major roadblocks for the acquisition to be approved, and initially blocked the acquisition back in April due to its potential impact on the cloud gaming market. To solve this, Microsoft announced its plans to sell cloud streaming rights to Ubisoft, a move that seems to have been enough to satisfy the UK regulatory board, which states that “Microsoft has put forward remedies which the CMA has provisionally concluded should address these issues.” The CMA has now opened a final consultation until October 6, where it will make a final decision. Provided no new distributive information surfaces, it can be assumed the CMA will approve the deal.
A relevant snippet of the CMA’s press release, reads:
The CMA considers that the restructured deal makes important changes that substantially address the concerns it set out in relation to the original transaction earlier this year.
In particular, the sale of Activision’s cloud streaming rights to Ubisoft will prevent this important content – including games such as Call of Duty, Overwatch, and World of Warcraft – from coming under the control of Microsoft in relation to cloud gaming. The CMA originally found that Microsoft already has a strong position in cloud gaming services and could have used its control over Activision content to stifle competition and reinforce this position. The new deal instead results in the cloud streaming rights for Activision’s games being transferred to an independent player, Ubisoft, maintaining open competition as the market for cloud gaming develops over the coming years.
While the restructured deal is materially different to the previous transaction and substantially addresses most concerns, the CMA has limited residual concerns that certain provisions in the sale of Activision’s cloud streaming rights to Ubisoft could be circumvented, terminated, or not enforced.
To address these concerns, Microsoft has offered remedies to ensure that the terms of the sale of Activision’s rights to Ubisoft are enforceable by the CMA. The CMA has provisionally concluded that this additional protection should resolve those residual concerns.
The CMA has now opened a consultation, until 6 October, on Microsoft’s proposed remedies.