Microsoft’s upcoming acquisition of Activision Blizzard, which the Redmond giant expects to complete by June 2023 could be more complicated than expected. According to a new report from Bloomberg, the US Federal Trade Commission will handle the antitrust review of the deal in place of the Justice Department, and the former is known for its harder stance regarding acquisitions that could negatively affect competition.
"The FTC will oversee the investigation into whether the takeover will harm competition, instead of the Justice Department, said the person, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the review,” Bloomberg wrote this morning. As of this writing, the FTC and Microsoft declined to comment about this report.
Back in December, the FTC made headlines after suing to block Nvidia’s $40 billion acquisition of UK chip design provider ARM. To explain its opposition to the vertical deal, the FTC said that it was “suing to block the largest semiconductor chip merger in history to prevent a chip conglomerate from stifling the innovation pipeline for next-generation technologies.”
Activision Blizzard owns some of the most popular gaming franchises ever created such as Call of Duty, Diablo, Overwatch, or Candy Crush. The $68.7 billion deal will be Microsoft’s most expensive acquisition in the company’s history, but Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer has since confirmed that the company wants to keep the blockbuster Call of Duty franchise on PlayStation consoles.
Despite Spencer's reassuring statement, Microsoft probably didn’t spend almost $70 billion to keep all Activision Blizzard games multiplatform forever, and this is precisely what the FTC and other regulatory organizations in the EU, UK, and China will take into consideration during their antitrust reviews. If the Microsoft/Activision deal will be unprecedented in the video games industry, Microsoft is still expected to remain behind Tencent and Sony in terms of gaming revenue once the acquisition gets finally approved.