FTC sues Microsoft to block Activision Blizzard deal

The US Federal Trade Commission is suing Microsoft over $68.7 billion acquisition plan of Activision Blizzard, said that the deal “will allow Microsoft to block competitors from Xbox consoles and their rapidly growing cloud gaming business and subscriptions.” .”

In a press release, the FTC said Microsoft has a track record of “acquiring and using valuable game content to prevent competition from rival consoles,” pointing out the company’s $7.5 billion acquisition of ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Bethesda Softworks. FTC notes Microsoft’s plan to keep next year star school and failure as proprietary to Microsoft. Those games will be available on Xbox platforms and Windows PCs.

“Microsoft has shown that it can and will withhold content from its gaming competitors,” Holly Vedova, director of the FTC’s Competition Bureau, said in a press release. “Today, we seek to prevent Microsoft from gaining control of a leading indie game studio and using it to harm competition in many dynamic and fast-growing game markets.”

The FTC points to the Xbox Series S and Series X as “one of only two types of high-performance video game consoles” on the market — the other, Sony’s PlayStation 5, was not mentioned in their statement. The committee also pointed to Microsoft’s Game Pass service as another cornerstone of the company’s games business that Sony and other console competitors do not have a comparable service to.

The committee also noted that Activision Blizzard is “one of the very few leading video game developers in the world that creates and publishes high-quality video games for multiple devices.” The publisher controls many properties, including Call of Duty, Warcraft, Overwatch, and Diablo.

“With control of Activision’s blockbuster franchises, Microsoft will have both the means and an incentive to harm competition by manipulating Activision’s prices, degrading Activision’s game quality or the player experience. on competitor consoles and game services, change the terms and duration of access to Activision content, or withhold content from competitors entirely, resulting in harm to consumers ,” said the FTC.

Microsoft’s Phil Spencer, head of Xbox, said that his company plans to keep cross-platform games like Call of Duty on all existing platforms, including PlayStation, after Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard may end. In recent months, Spencer has pointed to the example of Minecraft, which was acquired by Microsoft in 2014 for $2.5 billion, remains on many non-Xbox devices. Spencer and Microsoft have publicly committed to bringing Call of Duty to PlayStation and Nintendo devices for at least another 10 years.

But the FTC points out that Microsoft’s assurances to European regulators and antitrust regulators contradict Bethesda Softworks’ decision to bring Xbox and PC-exclusive games — and Game Pass — next year. .

Polygon has reached out to Microsoft for comment on the FTC’s lawsuit and will update this story as the company responds.


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