Xbox's Activision Blizzard deal may clear the EU after licensing offers

Phil Spencer Xbox 20 Celebration
(Image credit: Microsoft)

What you need to know

  • Microsoft is currently attempting to acquire major games publisher Activision Blizzard in a massive deal worth nearly $69 billion.
  • The deal is facing scrutiny from several regulators and organizations, including the EU, UK's CMA, and USA's FTC.
  • According to a new report, Microsoft's recent licensing offers to competitors may satisfy the European Commision's antitrust concerns.
  • The EU is likely to approve the deal now, according to the report, without demanding Microsoft divest Activision Blizzard assets.

For the last year, Microsoft has repeatedly captured headlines during its drawn-out battle to acquire publisher Activision Blizzard in a landmark deal worth nearly $69 billion. The deal has understandably drawn scrutiny and objection from government regulators, third-party organizations, and Xbox competitors. On Thursday, a new report suggests the deal may be crossing a major hurdle.

According to Reuters, the European Commision, acting under the EU, is likely to approve Microsoft's acquisition of Activision Blizzard. This follows Microsoft's recent high-profile attempts to assuage antitrust concerns by offering bold licensing deals to various rivals. All Activision Blizzard games and a multitude of Xbox games will come to NVIDIA GeForce Now should the deal be approved, for example. Microsoft has also signed a legally binding agreement to bring Call of Duty and undisclosed Xbox games to Nintendo Switch for the next 10 years.

The licensing offers are meant to highlight Microsoft's commitment to protecting competition in both cloud gaming and console markets, despite competitor Sony's frequent complaints to the contrary. The new report cites "three people familiar with the matter" claiming that the EU will be satisfied by Microsoft's promises, and is likely to approve the Activision Blizzard deal by its deadline of April 25, 2023. The report also states that the EU isn't likely to demand Microsoft divest Activision Blizzard assets, like the Call of Duty franchise, to approve the deal.

Earning approval from the EU is a major milestone for the deal, and may cause a cascading effect pushing for the completion of the deal later this year. Of course, Microsoft still has to contend with concerns from both the UK's CMA and the USA's FTC, with both regulators in the midst of their respective investigations.

In a recent interview, Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer discussed the Activision Blizzard deal, the topic of exclusivity, and his confidence that Xbox will succeed. In a separate interview, the Xbox head also stated that Xbox will still exist even if the Activision Blizzard deal falls through. If the EU is intending to approve the deal following Microsoft's ongoing commitments, however, the deal is considerably closer to finalizing.

Zachary Boddy
Staff Writer

Zachary Boddy (They / Them) is a Staff Writer for Windows Central, primarily focused on covering the latest news in tech and gaming, the best Xbox and PC games, and the most interesting Windows and Xbox hardware. They have been gaming and writing for most of their life starting with the original Xbox, and started out as a freelancer for Windows Central and its sister sites in 2019. Now a full-fledged Staff Writer, Zachary has expanded from only writing about all things Minecraft to covering practically everything on which Windows Central is an expert, especially when it comes to Microsoft. You can find Zachary on Twitter @BoddyZachary.