Microsoft’s long-winded attempts to buy Activision Blizzard took another turn on Thursday, as the U.S. government’s trade watchdog sued to prevent the merger.
The official antitrust complaint comes after the Federal Trade Commission’s investigation into the proposed $68.7 billion takeover of the Call of Duty publisher.
Citing Microsoft’s decision to keep Bethesda’s Starfield and Redfall exclusively on its own platforms, the FTC say it has not decided to legally block the takeover.
“Microsoft has already shown that it can and will withhold content from its gaming rivals,” said Holly Vedova, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, in a media release.
“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.”
The announcement comes as Microsoft scrambles to make assurances that Sony and Nintendo would get access to key franchises like Call of Duty for the next decade. The announcement Nintendo in particular will be able to support the games raised eyebrows because the Switch console is hardly capable of running the latest versions of the first person shooter. The mobile-focused Warzone game may be an option though.
The FTC says the takeover “would enable Microsoft to suppress competitors to its Xbox gaming consoles and its rapidly growing subscription content and cloud-gaming business.”
At the very least, it seems the protracted affair will continue long into 2023. Now, it appears there’s a significant possibility the deal may not go ahead. Could the FTC’s lawsuit be a kill shot for the deal?