Microsoft were hoping to complete their takeover of Activision Blizzard by the end of their financial year in June. That’s looking less likely now that the US Federal Trade Commission have published a schedule that sets dates for final hearings to decide on the merger, and they’re going to begin on August 2nd. As this is just the kick off for hearings about the case, it’s likely that any FTC decision on whether the $68.7 billion (£56 billion) deal can go ahead will take some time to emerge.
It’s almost a year since Microsoft surprised people in the industry and beyond by announcing they were intending to buy Activision Blizzard, expecting to close the deal by June 2023. What’s given competition authorities in the US, UK, and other countries concern since then is the effect that Microsoft’s potential ownership of massive series published by Activision Blizzard, such as Call Of Duty and Overwatch, might have on the gaming landscape. That includes emerging areas such as cloud gaming and services such as Game Pass. Last week, the UK’s Competition And Market’s Authority pushed back their own final decision on the merger by nearly two months, to April.
Back in December, the FTC’s panel voted 3-1 in favour of suing Microsoft over the proposed merger with Activision Blizzard. Their reasoning was that Microsoft’s acquisition of the company could allow the green team to “suppress competitors to its Xbox gaming consoles and its rapidly growing subscription content and cloud-gaming business”. Activision Blizzard’s executive vice-president for corporate affairs Lulu Cheng Meservey had tweeted ahead of the FTC’s decision to sue that the company wouldn’t hesitate to defend any challenge to the buyout.
It looks like there could be a longer wait to find out whether Microsoft’s deal to acquire Activision Blizzard will go ahead. The consolidation of one very hefty chunk of the games industry still seems uncertain, for now.
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