Microsoft’s bid to buy video game publisher Activision Blizzard could reportedly face a major roadblock as early as next month.
The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is likely to file an antitrust lawsuit to block the $69 billion takeover, according to Politico, citing people familiar with the matter.
A lawsuit challenging the deal is not guaranteed, and the FTC’s four commissioners have yet to vote on a complaint or meet with lawyers for the companies.
FTC staff reviewing the deal are skeptical of the companies’ arguments, these people said.
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At the center of the FTC’s concerns is whether the acquisition of Activision will give Microsoft an unfair advantage in the video game market.
Microsoft’s Xbox is number three to industry leader Sony Interactive Entertainment and the PlayStation console.
Sony is concerned that if Microsoft made popular games like Call of Duty exclusive to its platforms, Sony would be at a significant disadvantage.
Microsoft has promised to continue making Call of Duty available on Sony’s Playstation console, and recently made an offer to give Sony access to the game for the next 10 years.
An Activision spokesperson provided FOX Business with the following statement.
“Any suggestion that the transaction could lead to anti-competitive effects is completely absurd. This merger will benefit players and the US gaming industry, especially as we face increasingly tough competition from abroad. We are committed to continuing to work with regulators across world to allow the transaction to proceed, but will not hesitate to fight to defend the transaction if necessary.”
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Shares of Activision fell about 4% in extended trading.
Microsoft announced the deal in January, in the largest gaming industry deal in history.
Microsoft provided the following statement to FOX Business.
“As we have said before, we are prepared to address the concerns of regulators, including the FTC, and Sony to ensure that the deal closes in confidence. We will continue to follow Sony and Tencent in the market after the deal closes, and together with Activision and Xbox will benefit gamers and developers and make the industry more competitive.”
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The EU opened a full-scale investigation earlier this month. The EU’s competition watchdog said it will decide by March 23, 2023 whether to approve or block the deal.