Activision-Blizzard Xbox deal latest: UK regulator delays decision, Microsoft ready for possible FTC federal showdown

FTC vs. Microsoft
(Image credit: Windows Central)

This is the story that simply won't go away. Microsoft's blockbuster acquisition of Activision-Blizzard continues, with the latest drama revealing how aggressive Microsoft is willing to be to force the deal through.

In preliminary hearings with the US regulatory body (via Destin), Microsoft suggested that they're ready for a potential federal court showdown. Microsoft attorney Beth Wilkinson said that if the UK CMA regulatory body and the EU approve the deal, they expect that the FTC may move to seek a full injunction in federal court. The deal is currently worth $69 billion, and Microsoft is actively seeking resolutions for regulatory concerns. Microsoft has also said that it will present any potential concessionary "remedies" it reaches with the EU and CMA to the FTC as an option to avoid a court showdown while signaling that it is ready and willing to do so. 

Update: A previous version of this article suggested that Microsoft may seek to move ahead without FTC approval, which was an error on our part. We apologize for the mistake. 

To that end, the UK CMA today announced that it is delaying its final decision over the Microsoft Activision-Blizzard merger deal by two months, to April 26th, 2023. The UK regulator previously cited concerns over Call of Duty becoming exclusive to Xbox platforms, despite Microsoft's offer to offer the popular shooter to PlayStation, Nintendo, and Steam for Windows PCs contractually for up to ten years. The UK CMA says that it is extending the deadline owing to the "complexity" of the merger.

The latest wrangling comes after the United States FTC chief Lina Khan posted an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal bemoaning Microsoft's offer of "concessions," reiterating her position that the deal will harm competition, despite the fact Sony will remain the top dog in the video game industry even after the deal closes. 

Thanks Paul Brown for the tips! 

Windows Central's take

I've long stated my position that this deal will enhance gaming across the board, as Activision as part of a platform holder will have a fundamentally different approach than its current incarnation. Activision actively engages in marketing practices that harm consumers, offering exclusivity products as part of marketing efforts. Notoriously, Destiny and Call of Duty both have exclusive aspects on PlayStation, and those deals harm Xbox consumers, and by extension, competition. Call of Duty isn't available on Nintendo Switch either — something Microsoft has pledged to change. 

The U.S. FTC is operating from an ideological position. To support their arguments, they arbitrarily separated Nintendo's platforms from the equation, citing that their video games aren't "high-end" for some reason. To suggest that Nintendo Switch isn't in competition with PlayStation and Xbox is utterly asinine and betrays the FTC's weak position — and ultimately the reason they have opted to avoid a federal showdown with Microsoft thus far. 

However, the delays in the EU and UK will help the FTC concoct more lies and obfuscation to help prop up its shaky position. The ideological "big tech bad" position of the body is more about political posturing, and any delays that frustrate the deal is likely to be welcomed by the current administration. The FTC is likely hoping they can throw as many problems into proceedings as possible in an attempt to make Microsoft walk away, but what they don't understand is that Microsoft is pursuing this deal in its battle with mobile gaming giants like Tencent, Apple, and Google, despite the odd focus on Call of Duty. 

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden is a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by tea. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his XB2 Podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!