May 19, 2024

Microsoft‘s deal to buy Activision Blizzard got the green light Friday from regulators in the U.K. — clearing the way for the $68.7 billion blockbuster acquisition to close nearly two years after it was announced.

The U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) on Friday, Oct. 13, announced the approval of the Microsoft-Activision Blizzard acquisition. The regulatory agency cited Microsoft’s concession in August 2023 to transfer Activision’s cloud-gaming rights to Ubisoft Entertainment for current and new titles released over the next 15 years as “a game-changer that will promote competition.”

The deal — the largest to date in the video game industry — will dramatically expand Microsoft’s already sizable Xbox video game business, adding Activision Blizzard titles including “Call of Duty,” “Candy Crush,” “World of Warcraft,” “Diablo,” “Overwatch” and “Hearthstone.”

“We’re grateful for the CMA’s thorough review and decision today,” Microsoft vice chair and president Brad Smith said in a post on X/Twitter. We have now crossed the final regulatory hurdle to close this acquisition, which we believe will benefit players and the gaming industry worldwide.”

In an email to employees sent Friday, Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick wrote, “We now have all regulatory approvals necessary to close and we look forward to bringing joy and connection to even more players around the world… We’re excited for our next chapter together with Microsoft and the endless possibilities it creates for you and for our players.”

Microsoft first announced its agreement to buy Activision Blizzard in January 2022. The original merger agreement expired July 18, 2023, but the companies extended that to Oct. 18 pending the regulatory review.

In the U.S., the deal cleared regulatory and legal challenges including federal courts’ rejection of the FTC’s bid to block the deal.

The U.K.’s CMA issued a decision in April 2023 blocking the Microsoft-Activision merger on grounds that it is anticompetitive, specifically with respect to cloud gaming. The revised deal will allow Ubisoft to offer Activision Blizzard’s content “under any business model, including through multigame subscription services,” the regulator noted, as well as ensure that cloud gaming providers will be able to use non-Windows operating systems for Activision content. Per Microsoft’s restructured transaction, Ubisoft will have cloud-gaming rights to the Activision titles in perpetuity.

“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,” CMA chief executive Sarah Cardell said in announcing the approval. “As cloud gaming grows, this intervention will ensure people get more competitive prices, better services and more choice. We are the only competition agency globally to have delivered this outcome. ”

Cardell added that 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.”

Pictured above: Activision’s “Call of Duty Modern: Warfare III”

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