EU greenlights Microsoft takeover of Activision Blizzard

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The European Union (EU) on Monday (May 15) gave a go-ahead to Microsoft’s USD 69 billion takeover of US gaming giant Activision Blizzard. The acquisition was blocked by British competition regulator just weeks ago.

The deal also faces uncertain situation in the US. Last year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) launched legal action to block the acquisition. This was one of Washington’s biggest-ever interventions to stop tech industry consolidation.

Xbox-owner Microsoft launched its gigantic bid for Activision Blizzard early last year to create the world’s third biggest gaming firm by revenue after China’s Tencent and Japan’s PlayStation maker Sony, provoking antitrust concerns.

Activision Blizzard’s hit titles include ‘Candy Crush’, ‘World of Warcraft’ and more. If Microsoft’s acquisition bid goes ahead, it will be biggest ever deal in gaming.

The European Commission, the bloc’s powerful antitrust authority, said the approval was “conditional on full compliance with the commitments offered by Microsoft”.

“The commitments fully address the competition concerns identified by the commission and represent a significant improvement for cloud gaming as compared to the current situation,” it added in a statement.

European Commission said that if Microsoft lives up to its promises, it will allow gamers to stream Activision’s titles on any cloud gaming streaming services operating in Europe.

“The European Commission has required Microsoft to license popular Activision Blizzard games automatically to competing cloud gaming services,” Microsoft vice chair Brad Smith said. 

“This will apply globally and will empower millions of consumers worldwide to play these games on any device they choose.”

AFP quoted experts who said that unless Microsoft wins appeal against UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), it will be game over for the bid.

The CMA blocked the bid over concerns it could kill competition in the fast-growing cloud gaming market, and lead to less choice for British gamers in the future.

“If Microsoft does not win the appeal in the CAT, it cannot proceed with the acquisition even if the European Commission now approves it,” said Anne Witt, a professor of anti-trust law at EDHEC business school in France.

(With inputs from agencies)

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