CMA chief Sarah Cardell called out Microsoft for ‘dragging out proceedings’ during the investigation in a way that only ‘wastes time and money’.
The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has given Microsoft its approval today (13 October) to acquire Activision Blizzard, closing the biggest gaming deal in history.
It follows concessions made by Microsoft to let Ubisoft, a competitor in the gaming space, buy cloud streaming rights to Activision instead of the software giant.
“This new deal will put the cloud streaming rights (outside the EEA) for all of Activision’s PC and console content produced over the next 15 years in the hands of a strong and independent competitor with ambitious plans to offer new ways of accessing that content,” the CMA wrote.
“As a result of this concession, the CMA agreed to look afresh at the deal and launched a new investigation in August. That investigation has completed today with the CMA clearing this narrower transaction.”
The CMA found in February, following an in-depth investigation of the $69bn acquisition deal, that it could harm 45m gamers in the country, particularly those who “cannot afford or do not want to buy an expensive gaming console or gaming PC”.
According to the watchdog, Microsoft already accounts for an estimated 60 to 70pc of global cloud gaming services. It also has an advantage over competitors by virtue of its ownership of Xbox, Windows and global cloud computing infrastructure such as Azure.
Microsoft then submitted an altered proposal to meet the regulator’s needs, which the CMA began investigating in August.
Now, the CMA says the new deal will stop Microsoft from “locking up” competition in cloud gaming and preserve competitive prices and services for UK cloud gamers.
This means that Ubisoft will be able to offer Activision’s content under any business model, including through multigame subscription services. Cloud gaming providers will be able to use non-Windows operating systems for Activision content.
While it took a while for Microsoft to get CMA clearance – even as the EU and US gave the deal a green light – the UK regulator said last month that by agreeing to sell the cloud gaming rights of Activision to Ubisoft, Microsoft “substantially addresses” previous concerns around stifling innovation and competition and “opens the door” to the deal being cleared.
“We delivered a clear message to Microsoft that the deal would be blocked unless they comprehensively addressed our concerns and stuck to our guns on that,” CMA chief Sarah Cardell said in a statement today.
“With the sale of Activision’s cloud streaming rights to Ubisoft, we’ve made sure Microsoft can’t have a stranglehold over this important and rapidly developing market.”
However, Cardell called out Microsoft for delaying the investigation process.
“Businesses and their advisors should be in no doubt that the tactics employed by Microsoft are no way to engage with the CMA,” she said.
“Microsoft had the chance to restructure during our initial investigation but instead continued to insist on a package of measures that we told them simply wouldn’t work. Dragging out proceedings in this way only wastes time and money.”
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