Xbox Activision Blizzard deal faces in-depth antitrust probe from UK regulators

Xbox PC Game Pass at Gamescom 2022
(Image credit: Jez Corden | Windows Central)
  • The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has appointed an inquiry group to further investigate Microsoft's proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard.
  • The second phase of its investigation follows previous comments from the CMA raising concerns over UK competition and signaling its intent to pursue further action.

Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard is set to face an in-depth probe, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced on Thursday. The news sees the UK competition regulator push forward with the second phase of its investigation amid mounting scrutiny over the $68.7 billion deal.

The UK’s CMA signaled its intent to pursue further action earlier in September, citing concerns over its chance to reduce competition within the region. It’s the latest friction point over the industry-shaking acquisition, set to bring popular titles such as Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, and Candy Crush under the Xbox umbrella.

Microsoft announced plans to acquire Activision Blizzard earlier in 2022, now subject to regulatory approval across all regions in which it operates. The CMA has appointed a panel to investigate the deal further, studying its impact on UK markets and competition.

“The CMA has referred the anticipated acquisition by Microsoft Corporation of Activision Blizzard, Inc. for an in-depth investigation, on the basis that, on the information currently available to it, it is or may be the case that this Merger may be expected to result in a substantial lessening of competition within a market or markets in the United Kingdom,” the regulator stated in an update.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 beta screenshot

(Image credit: Infinity Ward/Activision)

The proposed acquisition remains subject to intensive regulatory scrutiny, with blockbuster franchises like Call of Duty among points of contention. While Microsoft has promised the military shooter series will stay on PlayStation after current agreements end, Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Jim Ryan has stated the offer is “inadequate,” marking the latest statement opposing the deal. Microsoft has claimed Sony's concerns are unfounded and push back on competition in the space.

Sony has since responded to the CMA’s decision, reiterating its support for further investigation of the deal. “By giving Microsoft control of Activision games like Call of Duty, this deal would have major negative implications for gamers and the future of the gaming industry,” a Sony representative told GamesIndustry. “We want to guarantee PlayStation gamers continue to have the highest quality gaming experience and we appreciate the CMA's focus on protecting gamers.”

Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard would end up being the biggest video game deal in history, trumping Take-Two Interactive’s $12.7 billion purchase of mobile game developer Zynga. It follows a series of high-profile acquisitions and continued industry consolidation, bringing top talent under major platform holders.

Matt Brown

Matt Brown was formerly a Windows Central's Senior Editor, Xbox & PC, at Future. Following over seven years of professional consumer technology and gaming coverage, he’s focused on the world of Microsoft's gaming efforts. You can follow him on Twitter @mattjbrown.