The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) on Wednesday opened an antitrust investigation into the proposed takeover of video game company Activision Blizzard by Microsoft. Should the deal go through, Microsoft would own some of the world’s most popular gaming franchises.
The CMA said in a statement that its investigation would probe whether the $69 billion takeover would harm competition “for example, through higher prices, lower quality, or reduced choice.”
Notices were sent to both companies on Wednesday, and the CMA said that it would make a decision on the proposed deal by September.
The takeover bid was first announced in January, with Microsoft stating that it would purchase Activision Blizzard for a cash price of $68.7 billion, or $95 per share, more that $10 above the share price at the time.
The deal would be Microsoft’s largest acquisition to date, after its purchase of LinkedIn in 2016 for $26.2 billion. It would also significantly expand the software giant’s portfolio of intellectual property, giving it control of such gaming franchises as Call of Duty, Crash Bandicoot, Warcraft, Overwatch and Candy Crush Saga.
Acquiring these franchises would be a major coup for Microsoft in its battle for console supremacy with Sony and Nintendo, coming a year after its $7.5 billion takeover of Bethesda, the studio behind the Elder Scrolls and Fallout franchises.
However, the deal must first be cleared by regulators. In addition to Britain’s CMA, US Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan said last month that her agency was investigating the proposed purchase, as is the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. The European Union has not announced a similar inquiry, but may do so soon, considering it probed Microsoft’s 2021 Bethesda buyout.
Microsoft stated in February that it was eyeing the Activision Blizzard takeover as a means of competing with Meta and Sony in building the so-called ‘metaverse’, a virtual reality world that adherents insist will one day replace the social media infrastructure we know today.
“Being great at game building gives us the permission to build this next platform, which is essentially the next internet,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said at the time.
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