What you need to know
- Microsoft is in the last stages of getting clearance for its deal to buy Activision Blizzard for almost $69 billion.
- The deal has been approved in numerous countries around the world, with Microsoft defeating the FTC in the U.S. following a court hearing.
- After delaying the decision again and again, the deal has finally been cleared in New Zealand by the Commerce Commission.
- The U.K. is the last major country needed for Microsoft to close the deal, though approvals and denials could still happen in other countries.
The biggest acquisition in gaming history is getting closer to completion, bit by bit.
Following an impressively indecisive eighth delay, the Commerce Commission of New Zealand has cleared Microsoft's purchase of Activision Blizzard with no restrictions.
This marks approval from one of the last countries that had yet to take action in deciding to allow or deny the $69 billion purchase, which will grant Microsoft control of franchises like Call of Duty, Diablo, and World of Warcraft, adding numerous game development studios to the first-party development at Xbox alongside Xbox Game Studios and Bethesda Softworks.
The deal previously saw approval in a number of countries such as Brazil, Japan, Ukraine, and the European Union, with the latter seeking a number of behavioral remedies to ensure fair competition with cloud gaming over the next several years.
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A Microsoft spokesperson reached out in response to the news, saying "We appreciate the thoughtful consideration by the New Zealand Commerce Commission of our acquisition of Activision Blizzard and welcome its decision to clear the deal unconditionally. This acquisition will ultimately benefit the gaming industry and gamers and we will continue to work toward closing the deal.
Microsoft primarily saw opposition from the FTC in the U.S. and the CMA in the U.K, with the former regulatory body suing to stop the purchase and the latter formally blocking it.
Following a five-day court hearing, Microsoft defeated the FTC, whose appeals were denied, clearing the merger in in the U.S. After this defeat, negotiations re-opened with the CMA, with the regulatory reportedly looking at a modified merger agreement which involves Microsoft giving up its Cloud gaming rights for Activision Blizzard content in the in U.K.
Sony, one of the staunchest opponents to the deal going through, also relented, signing an agreement to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation for the next ten years.
Originally slated to close by July 18, Microsoft and Activision have extended the merger agreement to Oct. 18, 2023, in order to allow for the last regulatory approvals to be granted.
Analysis: Inching closer to the finish line
Every time I write a new story providing some update on this saga, it feels like I'm saying some variation of "we're closer, we're still not there yet."
That remains true here. While not a major approval, New Zealand can now be added to the pile of countries that have cleared the deal, adding even more weight to the matter in any outstanding countries like Australia. The U.K. is the last country that we really need to see action in however, so hopefully that comes in the next couple of weeks.
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