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European Commission opens investigation into Microsoft's acquisition of Activision Blizzard
The biggest acquisition in the world of video games could be questioned by the European authority.
Announced without warning on January 18, the acquisition of Activision Blizzard by Microsoft was a bombshell. Already very present in the video game world with its four generations of Xbox consoles and the long list of "internal" or "partner" studios, the Redmond-based company bought one of the biggest video game publishers for the modest sum of 68.7 billion dollars, owner of many very popular franchises on PC(Diablo, Starcraft, WarCraft), but also of the famous Call of Duty as well as of the company King, a giant in mobile games.
The takeover logically made the headlines as it was the largest acquisition in the video game world, well above the previous record of 12.7 billion paid by Take-Two a few days earlier to buy another video game specialist, Zynga. Even more impressive is that this is the largest acquisition ever made by Microsoft, which had already enjoyed the purchase of LinkedIn in 2016 ($26.2 billion), Nuance Communications in 2021 ($19.7 billion) or Skype in 2011 ($8.5 billion). An operation that is however part of a background strategy for Microsoft, which had already bought many studios like Mojang(Minecraft), Obsidian(The Outer Worlds), Ninja Theory(Hellblade) or Double Fine(Psychonauts). In September 2020, Microsoft started to think bigger by acquiring another heavyweight in the sector, the publisher ZeniMax (Bethesda), for 7.5 billion dollars.
The problem is that since the announcement of the acquisition, several observers and competitors have been worried about the power that Microsoft has obtained by making such an acquisition. For example, Japanese Sony fears that the American publisher's most popular games - such as Call of Duty - will no longer be adapted to the competing machines of the Xbox One and other Xbox Series X|S. Sony is of course thinking about its PlayStation 5 and seems to have recently been joined by the European Commission. On November 8, the Commission mentioned the fear that Microsoft might " lock out Activision Blizzard's video games for consoles and PCs," adding that the publisher could implement " strategies to drive out competing distributors of video games for consoles.
However, this is not the most important issue for the European Commission, which does not hide its concerns about the new subscription-based game platforms. It believes that Microsoft could discourage users from using operating systems other than Windows, which would be more attractive if Activision Blizzard's games were reserved for this OS alone. In fact, it considers that this acquisition could be harmful for the sector as a whole, citing "higher prices, lower quality and reduced innovation ". Finally, the Commission specifies that by March 23, 2023 a decision will be taken, after an " in-depth investigation into the effects of the transaction, to determine whether its initial concerns are confirmed.