Microsoft's purchase of Activision Blizzard for Xbox has been fully APPROVED by the UK regulator

Activision characters
(Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • UK regulatory authority the CMA granted Microsoft approval to purchase Activision Blizzard. 
  • This comes after months after the CMA initially blocked Microsoft from acquiring the publisher of Call of Duty and World of Warcraft. 
  • Microsoft restructured the deal to sell off Activision Blizzard Cloud gaming rights to Ubisoft, assuaging the CMA's concerns that the combined company would become dominant in Cloud gaming. 
  • With the FTC in the U.S. denied a preliminary injunction to stop the deal, Microsoft is now free to finalize its purchase of Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion.

The biggest acquisition in gaming history is cleared to go ahead, per the UK regulator. 

UK regulator the CMA shared on Friday that it has approved Microsoft's restructured acquisition of Activision Blizzard, a deal worth almost $69 billion that has taken nearly two years to complete, with the purchase first being announced back on Jan. 18, 2022. 

The CMA updated the official UK government website page on the deal on October 13, 2023, with the following: "Microsoft Corporation’s request for consent to close under Microsoft and Activision Merger Inquiry Order 2023 granted." 

A full explanation of the decision further reads: "The CMA has decided to give Microsoft Corporation (Microsoft) consent to acquire Activision Blizzard, Inc. (Activision) (the Parties) excluding Activision’s cloud streaming rights outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) (the Merger) subject to the condition that the sale of Activision’s cloud streaming rights completes prior to completion of the Merger. As set out below, this consent is required as a result of the CMA’s Final Order prohibiting Microsoft’s acquisition of the whole of Activision (the First Proposed Merger)."

Activision also offered a statement: "The CMA’s official approval is great news for our future with Microsoft, and we look forward to becoming part of the Xbox Team."

In a note to employees, Activision noted its "excitement" about getting the deal through to closure. 

"Today the CMA, the regulatory authority in the UK, approved our transaction with Microsoft. 

We now have all regulatory approvals necessary to close and we look forward to bringing joy and connection to even more players around the world. 

Our board chair Brian Kelly and I are incredibly proud of all of you and your accomplishments over the last four decades. We’re excited for our next chapter together with Microsoft and the endless possibilities it creates for you and for our players."

Microsoft's Brad Smith also chimed in, to reiterate that this was the final major regulatory hurdle ahead of the deal fully closing. 

The CMA had previously blocked Microsoft's acquisition of Activision Blizzard, citing concerns over Microsoft becoming dominant in the uber-nascent Cloud gaming market. Shortly after a court hearing in the U.S. that saw the FTC unable to block Microsoft's purchase, the CMA reopened negotiations with the Xbox publisher, eventually granting preliminary approval to a restructured deal.

In the restructured deal, Microsoft is selling off the Cloud gaming rights of Activision Blizzard titles to Ubisoft, with the Assassin's Creed publisher getting the Cloud gaming rights to any current Activision Blizzard titles or any new games that arrive in the next 15 years.

Activision's ATVI shares have also halted trading on the NASDAQ as of late yesterday, "pending material news." This is the official news. The deal has cleared its final hurdle with the FTC not receiving its injunction request in the United States, and the European Union also fully approving the deal earlier this year. 

The final steps are being taken

With the final approval in place, Microsoft and Activision Blizzard are signing the paperwork needed to close the deal as you read this. It won't be long before we get notice that everything is done. It's been a long road with plenty of bumps, but I think everyone is happy this ride is finally coming to a close.

The deal currently has a deadline of October 18, 2023, and with this last regulatory approval in place, I expect we'll get the final bit of news very, very soon.

Samuel Tolbert
Freelance Writer

Samuel Tolbert is a freelance writer covering gaming news, previews, reviews, interviews and different aspects of the gaming industry, specifically focusing on Xbox and PC gaming on Windows Central. You can find him on Twitter @SamuelTolbert.

With contributions from
  • fjtorres5591
    Lost in all the CMA posturing and chest besting is that Ubisoft chargest the most for their own game streaming package. They are unlikely to undercut their own package by charging lrss for "Activision+" than for Ubisoft+. Probably why the EU saw no reason to demand changes in their territory since the deals MS alrrady signed are more consumer friendly than what the CMA accepted.

    Consumers on non-GP cloud services (Luna?) that hadn't already signed with MS will likely be worse off than signing up up with GP.

    The fun two years of bottled up deals explode.
    Things like what happens with Embracer, who if anybody buys EA, Warner Games, or UBISOFT. Will Netflix, Amazon, Disney, or Apple jump in?

    And, of course, how XBOX restructures post purchase; will Activision be broken up or run as a fully owned independent? Will COD continue as a yearly resource-drain? Will XBOX be spun off as a semi independent publisher?

    The fun is just starting.