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US seeks to stop Microsoft's bid for 'Call of Duty' maker

December 8, 2022

The US Federal Trade Commission said Microsoft's $69 billion buyout of gaming giant Activision Blizzard, maker of the blockbuster "Call of Duty" title, would stifle competition.

 A person playing Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 on the XBox 360.
Microsoft's Xbox console makes it a major player in the gaming industryImage: Tim Ireland/empics/picture alliance

US Federal regulators are suing to block Microsoft's planned $69 billion (€65 billion) takeover of video game company Activision Blizzard.

"Microsoft has already shown that it can and will withhold content from its gaming rivals,'' Holly Vedova, director of the US Federal Trade Commission‘s Bureau of Competition said.

"Today we seek to stop Microsoft from gaining control over a leading independent game studio and using it to harm competition in multiple dynamic and fast-growing gaming markets,'' Vedova added.

Microsoft's president, Brad Smith, said they would fight the FTC.

"While we believed in giving peace a chance, we have complete confidence in our case and welcome the opportunity to present our case in court,'' Smith said.

Microsoft facing scrutiny by several regulators

The US software giant and Xbox maker already announced plans to buy Activision Blizzard in January, in the biggest gaming industry deal in history.

The acquisition includes blockbuster games like Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and Candy Crush — which could give Microsoft an edge over Sony and other competitors.

It would make Microsoft the third-largest gaming company by revenue, behind Tencent and Sony.

The blockbuster merger is not only facing close scrutiny from regulators in the US but also Europe and elsewhere.

The deadline for the European Commission, which is investigating the deal, to set out a formal list of competition concerns known as a statement of objection is in January.

The UK watchdog, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), previously said the deal could lessen competition in gaming.

Call of Duty the heart of the problem

US and European lawmakers have been drafting regulations aimed at reining in Big Tech companies.

Sony, which makes the competing PlayStation console has raised concerns with antitrust watchdogs around the world about losing access to popular games especially Call of Duty.

Last month Sony's Playstation account tweeted that the game's latest incarnation, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II had the biggest Playstation launch ever.

Microsoft announced its latest promise Wednesday, saying it would make Call of Duty available on Nintendo devices for 10 years should its acquisition go through.

It has said it tried to offer the same commitment to Sony.

Sony did not immediately comment on the FTC's decission.

lo/aw (AP, Reuters, AFP)