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UK CMA calls for in-depth investigation over Xbox’s planned Activision Blizzard deal

Earlier this month, the UK's Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) announced that it has reached a new stage in its probe into Microsoft's planned Activision Blizzard acquisition. In short, the CMA has concerns that the deal could harm competition and on that basis, the case is now being recommended for further scrutiny. 

In an update today, the UK CMA confirmed its decision following Phase 1 of the investigation, saying: “The CMA has referred the anticipated acquisition by Microsoft Corporation of Activision Blizzard, Inc. for an in-depth investigation, on the basis that, on the information currently available to it, it is or may be the case that this Merger may be expected to result in a substantial lessening of competition within a market or markets in the United Kingdom.”

Now, the investigation will move into Phase 2, which will bring together an independent panel to examine competition concerns brought on by this potential acquisition. While most publishers have been neutral or supportive of the deal, some do take issue, including Sony. Through documents submitted to authorities in Brazil, we learned that Sony is particularly worried about losing access to Call of Duty on PlayStation.

Microsoft responded to those concerns by promising to keep Call of Duty multiplatform and treat it the same way it treats Minecraft. Still, despite a public willingness to cooperate with regulators and keep some of the biggest franchises multiplatform, many governments around the world still need to come to a decision.

Aside from the CMA's continued probe into the deal, the European Commission is also investigating the deal, as is the US Federal Trade Commission.

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KitGuru Says: For now, Microsoft is still saying publicly that it expects to complete the deal in the first half of 2023. However, as we saw with Nvidia's scrapped acquisition of Arm in 2021, things can quickly change. 

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