Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard, and key franchises like Call of Duty, faces more long delays as European regulators have decided to take a closer look at the $69m deal.
As widely expected, the European Union has announced plans to carry out an “in-depth investigation” into the takeover, amid concerns the merger may “significantly reduce competition” in the console and PC markets.
The EU regulators now have three months to complete the investigation (until March 23 next year) to complete the investigation, meaning it’ll be at least that long until the deal is rubber stamped on the continent. The UK is also carrying out a deeper probe of the deal, along with other regulators around the globe.
The announcement comes following a preliminary investigation outlining multiple concerns pertaining to the console and PC gaming landscapes; from Microsoft’s perceived ability to stockpile major franchises and withhold access, to keeping titles back for streaming and cloud gaming services, and the possibility it could be used to shore-up the already-dominant position of Windows PCs.
As for the latter, the Commission writes: “In particular, the Commission is concerned that Microsoft may reduce the ability of rival providers of PC operating systems to compete with Microsoft’s operating system Windows, by combining Activision Blizzard’s games and Microsoft’s distribution of games via cloud game streaming to Windows. This would discourage users to buy non-Windows PCs.”
Microsoft has already responded to the announcement, and actually brought up Sony’s concern that Call of Duty may disappear from PlayStation platforms once the deal is complete. Microsoft itself recently said that as long as there’s a PlayStation to publish game on, Call of Duty will be available on it.
A Microsoft spokesperson said: “We’re continuing to work with the European Commission on next steps and to address any valid marketplace concerns. Sony, as the industry leader, says it is worried about Call of Duty, but we’ve said we are committed to making the same game available on the same day on both Xbox and PlayStation. We want people to have more games to access, not less.”