The acquisition of Activision Blizzard by Microsoft is greatly threatened: everything suggests that the American government will oppose it because of call of duty.
Announced in 2017 and pronounced in 2019, the acquisition of Century Fox by Disney for 71 billion was regularly described as the deal of the century for the world of cinema. Similarly, the video game world was also preparing to cash in on its own deal of the century with Microsoft’s takeover of Activision-Blizzard. (owner of hugely lucrative licenses like call of duty, World of Warcraft, Overwatch and Diablo among others) for no less than 69 billion. A sum that makes you dizzy and which, as for Disney, could mean the advent of an unstoppable titan. Except that.
An unstoppable team
If the Disney/Fox affair went off without a hitch, Microsoft/Activision is off to a more complicated start. Such an agreement must indeed be authorized by the various regulatory authorities of the market, whose role is to protect the existence of competition and prevent the emergence of monopolies. Logically, this takeover is therefore scrutinized very closely by various national and international institutions, in particular the European Union, which is suspicious and has launched a dedicated commission. Not to mention the fact that the authority of the United Kingdom itself has raised serious concerns. A situation that is already not easy, to which could be added an even greater difficulty according to the revelations of Politico this morning.
According to the newspaper, which quotes three different sources, the Federal Trade Commission (or FTC in English) of the American government should render an unfavorable opinion on this agreement. In other words: the American state would oppose the takeover of Activision Blizzard by Microsoft, and should file a complaint in order to request that this whole story be arbitrated by a court of law. Attention all the same: the article of Politico makes it clear that the FTC’s decision has not yet been definitively taken, but explains that the body is not at all convinced by the arguments and guarantees put forward by Microsoft to reassure it. And therefore should probably go in this direction.
Investigated by the FTC
If this is the case, the takeover of Activision by Microsoft would find itself greatly threatened. Microsoft is already embarking on a perilous boa constrictor charmer act with the EU and UK, which is to say it doesn’t need a third snake added, especially since this one is as big asAnaconda by Jennifer Lopez. We hope that the entire Microsoft team has revised their flute lessons at the Mantes-la-Jolie conservatory, because a hell of a world pipe tour is coming up, mainly because of call of duty.
Given the amount of recent public statements from Microsoft about the license and their echoes on the Internet, it would indeed seem possible to deduce that, among the many questions raised, this one crystallizes most of the debate. Sony has also insisted enormously on the impact of the acquisition of a locomotive as powerful as call of duty – let’s remember, simply the juiciest brand in the world of video games – with the CMA, the English equivalent of the FTC:
They came to fuck up the mess
“Call of Duty is deeply embedded in the psyche of gamers, and each new installment has dominated sales. Post-transaction, Microsoft would have the ability and interest to restrict or exclude competitive access to Call of Duty, PlayStation and Playstaion Plus included Microsoft would control irreplaceable content that drives user engagement, with Activision content driving X% [chiffre confidentiel, NDLR] more engagement on PlayStation than all Sony Interactive Entertainment titles combined.”
Sony drives the point home by taking the example of the United Kingdom, where PlayStation gamers would spend 30-40% of their time on Microsoft or Activision properties. Obviously, the extrapolation to the rest of the world is quickly made, and we realize that it would represent a considerable pole of attraction if these properties were all to become Xbox exclusives, in particular because of its stranglehold on all behemoths of FPS and shooters in general. This would lead to a migration of players, and therefore, mechanically, to an increase in the prices of machines and Microsoft services for consumers, at least according to Sony.
We will have more than Fortnite to shoot at each other
CALL OF CALLED
We could discuss for a long time the honesty of such an argument on the part of the Japanese firm, which very opportunely takes up the argument of consumers’ interests to defend its own. One could also go so far as to conjecture that Sony would probably have tried to buy Activision if it had been able, and that one would not be surprised if something was going on behind the scenes on the side of THQ or EA. Remember that video games are an industry, and not just any industry: the most lucrative cultural industry in the world. In such a universe, bad guys and good guys are rare.
The problem is, Microsoft couldn’t come up with much else to answer than Nintendo’s counter-model would prove PlayStation doesn’t need call of duty to compete. Microsoft has also warranted that call of duty would remain on PlayStation for another decade, and that a deal would be offered to Sony immediately after the current one between the two giants expires in 2024. Weak arguments: 10 years on an industry scale is nothing, and Nintendo is an exception. In any case, it would seem that this does not weigh very heavily in the balance of the various regulatory bodies.
“Stop regulating me with that silly look”
Even if these remarks were made in the United Kingdom, there is no doubt that the USA is tense on the same subject. No rush though: that the US government oppose Microsoft’s takeover of Activision Blizzard does not automatically mean that the transaction is dead and buried. On the other hand, in this case, the procedure is likely to last much longer because of the examination by a court, and above all, its chances of happening are dwindling. The FTC having announced a decision at the end of November, the rest of the events should be known in the coming days.