UK government concerned by Microsoft's Activision Blizzard acquisition

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2022) screenshot
(Image credit: Activision)

The UK government has indicated the Activision Blizzard acquisition by Microsoft could lead to "competition concerns."

That's according to a new statement, published earlier today on September 1 by the UK's Competition and Markets Authority, the government agency said it's "concerned that Microsoft’s anticipated purchase of Activision Blizzard could substantially lessen competition in gaming consoles."

"The CMA is concerned that if Microsoft buys Activision Blizzard it could harm rivals, including recent and future entrants into gaming, by refusing them access to Activision Blizzard games or providing access on much worse terms," the statement from the CMA continues.

The CMA goes on to add that it's "received evidence about the potential impact of combining Activision Blizzard with Microsoft’s broader ecosystem." In short, the CMA is concerned that Microsoft could use Activision Blizzard to strengthen its positions across cloud, PC, and console gaming.

To this end, the CMA is inclined to initiate "Phase 2" of its operation. "Microsoft and Activision Blizzard now have 5 working days to submit proposals to address the CMA’s concerns. If suitable proposals are not submitted, the deal will be referred for a Phase 2 investigation," the statement continues.

If it does go ahead, this Phase 2 investigation from the CMA would allow a panel of experts to delve deeper into the risks already assessed in Phase 1 of the investigation. 

"Following our Phase 1 investigation, we are concerned that Microsoft could use its control over popular games like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft post-merger to harm rivals, including recent and future rivals in multi-game subscription services and cloud gaming," said Sorcha O’Carroll, Senior Director of Mergers at the CMA.

Now though, Microsoft has responded to the announcement. "We’re ready to work with the CMA on next steps and address any of its concerns," Microsoft company president Brad Smith stated in response to the CMA's concerns. "Sony, as the industry leader, says it is worried about Call of Duty, but we’ve said we are committed to making the same game available on the same day on both Xbox and PlayStation. We want people to have more access to games, not less," concluded Smith.

Microsoft now has five working days to submit evidence and proposals to address the concerns raised from the CMA. If not, the agency will delve further into their concerns surrounding the acquisition.

Blizzard Albany became the latest Activision Blizzard studio to seek unionization earlier this year. 

Hirun Cryer

Hirun Cryer is a freelance reporter and writer with Gamesradar+ based out of U.K. After earning a degree in American History specializing in journalism, cinema, literature, and history, he stepped into the games writing world, with a focus on shooters, indie games, and RPGs, and has since been the recipient of the MCV 30 Under 30 award for 2021. In his spare time he freelances with other outlets around the industry, practices Japanese, and enjoys contemporary manga and anime.