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EU antitrust regulators extend deadline for ruling Microsoft Activision’s $69 billion deal to April 25


European Union antitrust regulators have extended the deadline for a decision on Microsoft’s $69 billion (about Rs. 5,71,800 crores) acquisition of Call of Duty maker Activision to April 25, according to a European Commission filing on Wednesday.

Xbox announced a deal with Activision Blizzard in January last year to help it better compete with leaders Tencent and Sony, but it faced regulatory hurdles in Europe, Britain and the United States.

It is expected to provide solutions for competition enforcement in the European Union soon.

Last month, Microsoft struck a 10-year deal to bring Call of Duty and other Activision games to Nvidia’s gaming platform if the Xbox maker is allowed to complete its controversial $69 billion acquisition of Activision.

Regulators and competitors such as Sony have been fiercely opposed to the proposed Microsoft-Activision agreement. The move may assuage concerns by ensuring more ways for consumers to control games by Microsoft, but regulators around the world have been skeptical about the acquisition.

Britain said, earlier in February, that the deal could hurt gamers by weakening the rivalry between Xbox and PlayStation, leading to higher prices, fewer choices and less innovation for millions of players, as well as stifling competition in cloud gaming.

Sony has led opposition to the Microsoft-Activision deal, saying last year that it was “bad for the competition, bad for the games industry, and bad for the gamers themselves.”

Aside from Sony and Nvidia, other companies including Alphabet’s Google have expressed concerns to the Federal Trade Commission about the deal, according to media reports.

Microsoft has vowed to keep Call of Duty on Sony’s PlayStation. The first-person shooter franchise’s popularity has not faltered nearly two decades after its launch, with its latest batch bringing in $1 billion in sales in its first 10 days in October.

The US tech giant said the deal is about more than Call of Duty. It said buying the company that also makes Overwatch and Candy Crush would cost its growth in mobile, PC and cloud gaming, as well as consoles, helping it compete with the likes of Tencent as well as Sony.

Last month, Microsoft chief Brad Smith sought to convince EU antitrust regulators in a closed-door hearing that the company’s bid for Activision Blizzard would boost competition.

A European Commission document seen by Reuters showed that Smith headed a delegation of 18 senior executives, including Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer, while Activision was represented by CEO Robert Kotek.

© Thomson Reuters 2023

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Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.