What just happened? Microsoft has cleared what appears to have been the final hurdle in its protracted $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard. The UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has given its approval for the deal to complete, just as the October 18 deadline loomed large.
Having initially blocked the deal over fears it could alter the fledgling cloud gaming industry, the CMA has now officially approved Microsoft's restructured deal having given it the provisional green light last week. The altered version includes the transfer of cloud streaming rights for all current and new Activision Blizzard PC and console games released over the next 15 years to Ubisoft.
"The CMA has decided to give Microsoft Corporation (Microsoft) consent to acquire Activision Blizzard, Inc. (Activision) (the Parties) excluding Activision's cloud streaming rights outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) (the Merger) subject to the condition that the sale of Activision's cloud streaming rights completes prior to completion of the Merger," the CMA wrote in a statement.
We've cleared the new deal for Microsoft to buy Activision without cloud gaming rights.– Competition & Markets Authority (@CMAgovUK) October 13, 2023
In August, Microsoft made a concession that would see Ubisoft, instead of Microsoft, buy Activision's cloud gaming rights.
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The watchdog added that the new deal will stop Microsoft from stifling competition in cloud gaming as the market starts to take off. It added that Microsoft's concession will ensure cloud gamers get more competitive prices, better services, and more choice. "We are the only competition agency globally to have delivered this outcome," said Sarah Cardell, CEO of the CMA.
Microsoft Vice Chair and president Brad Smith said on X/Twitter that the company was grateful for the CMA's decision and that it believes the acquisition will benefit players and the gaming industry worldwide.
We're grateful for the CMA's thorough review and decision today. We have now crossed the final regulatory hurdle to close this acquisition, which we believe will benefit players and the gaming industry worldwide.– Brad Smith (@BradSmi) October 13, 2023
There was more good news for Microsoft and Activision this week when it was reported that the European Commission would not carry out a new probe into the deal. The Commission had cleared the takeover earlier this year but warned that it might need to conduct another review into the alterations, which would have caused even more delays.
Microsoft still has to contend with the FTC. The US agency recently said it would be resuming its in-house trial against the takeover after pausing the process over the summer. However, while the FTC can technically continue to challenge the deal after it closes, it has no preliminary injunction in place to stop the acquisition from completing.
It now looks as if Activision Blizzard's recent prediction will happen. The company said that it expects to begin adding games, including Modern Warfare III and Diablo IV, to Game Pass sometime next year if the deal closes.