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Saturday, Sep 23, 2023

Microsoft-Activision Blizzard £55bn merger approved by EU - despite UK rejection

Microsoft-Activision Blizzard £55bn merger approved by EU - despite UK rejection

The European Commission said it accepted commitments made by the technology giant that it would not decrease competition in cloud gaming, where it already accounts for around 70% of the market.
The European Commission said it accepted commitments made by the technology giant that it would not decrease competition in cloud gaming, where it already accounts for around 70% of the market.

The $68.7bn (£55bn) mega merger between Microsoft and game developer Activison Blizzard has been approved by the European Union, just weeks after it was blocked by the UK.

European regulators said they accept commitments made by Microsoft that its offer to take over the developer behind Call Of Duty, would not lessen competition.

In April, the UK's regulator said it was concerned about stifling competition in the gaming sector, with Microsoft saying it would appeal the decision.

"Video games attract billions of users all over the world. In such a fast-growing and dynamic industry, it is crucial to protect competition and innovation," said EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

"Our decision represents an important step in this direction, by bringing Activision's popular games to many more devices and consumers than before thanks to cloud game streaming.

"The commitments offered by Microsoft will enable for the first time the streaming of such games in any cloud game streaming services, enhancing competition and opportunities for growth."

The company, one of the biggest tech firms in the world makes the Xbox, and accounts for up to 70% of cloud gaming services, where people play the game online without the need to download the game.

In response, Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick, said: "The EC conducted an extremely thorough, deliberate process to gain a comprehensive understanding of gaming.

"As a result, they approved our merger with Microsoft, although they required stringent remedies to ensure robust competition in our rapidly growing industry."

"We intend to meaningfully expand our investment and workforce throughout the EU, and we're excited for the benefits our transaction brings to players in Europe and around the world."

Microsoft president Brad Smith said: "The European Commission has required Microsoft to license popular Activision Blizzard games automatically to competing cloud gaming services.

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

The UK regulator stands by its decision

Sarah Cardell, chief executive of the UK Competition and Markets Authority, said: "The UK, US and European competition authorities are unanimous that this merger would harm competition in cloud gaming. The CMA concluded that cloud gaming needs to continue as a free, competitive market to drive innovation and choice in this rapidly evolving sector.

"Microsoft's proposals, accepted by the European Commission today, would allow Microsoft to set the terms and conditions for this market for the next ten years.

"They would replace a free, open and competitive market with one subject to ongoing regulation of the games Microsoft sells, the platforms to which it sells them, and the conditions of sale. This is one of the reasons the CMA's independent panel group rejected Microsoft's proposals and prevented this deal.

"While we recognise and respect that the European Commission is entitled to take a different view, the CMA stands by its decision."

Even though the firm has been granted EU approval, its rejection by the CMA means they will need to seek approval in the UK to operate there.
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