Microsoft Closes One of Tech's Biggest Acquisitions

Company's massive $69B deal to buy 'Call of Duty' maker Activision Blizzard is approved
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 13, 2023 8:37 AM CDT
Microsoft Can Now 'Dictate the Future' of Gaming
Scenes from "Candy Crush Saga," left, by Activision Blizzard, and "Crash Team Rumble," from Activision Publishing, are shown in this photo, in New York, Wednesday, June 21, 2023.   (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Microsoft has completed its acquisition of video game-maker Activision Blizzard for $69 billion, closing one of the most expensive tech acquisitions in history that could have repercussions across the video game industry, per the AP. The notice that the deal has gone through came seven hours after Microsoft got final approval from Britain's competition watchdog, which reversed its earlier decision to block the $69 billion gaming deal, removing the last obstacle for the transaction. Taking over the studios behind blockbuster games like Call of Duty, Diablo, and Overwatch will be a boost for Microsoft's Xbox gaming console, which ranks third in sales behind PlayStation and Nintendo.

The software giant also has bigger ambitions to fold Activision titles into its multi-game subscription service that works something like a Netflix for video games. The nearly 22 months it took to close the deal reflected concerns from rivals and government regulators that Microsoft could use its growing collection of games to crimp competition. It's part of a broader industry consolidation that also has some independent game developers worried they'll get sidelined as the industry allocates its resources toward blockbuster franchises with a history of past success.

The deal will benefit gamers and be "productive for the gaming industry as a whole," said Josh Chapman, managing partner at venture capital firm Konvoy, which invests in video game startups. However, it also tilts the "balance of power significantly" in favor of Microsoft, whose Xbox console has lagged behind Sony's PlayStation and Nintendo, said George Jijiashvili, senior principal analyst at tech research and advisory firm Omdia. Microsoft "now has a big opportunity to dictate the future of the games industry," he said. Since the deal was announced in January 2022, Microsoft has secured approvals from antitrust authorities covering more than 40 countries. Crucially, it got a thumbs-up from the 27-nation European Union after agreeing to allow users and cloud gaming platforms to stream its titles without paying royalties for 10 years.

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But the deal faced resistance from British and American regulators who worried it would stifle competition in the video game industry. Top rival Sony also feared it would limit PlayStation gamers' access to Call of Duty, Activision's long-running military shooter series. The US Federal Trade Commission lost a court bid to pause the deal so that its in-house judge could review it. The FTC hasn't given up, appealing the decision and last month filing notice of its plan to resume that trial. That signals the US regulator's intention to unwind the deal even after closing.

(More Microsoft stories.)

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