Microsoft gets US judge go-ahead for $69 bn Activision deal

The recent decision by U.S. District Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley to approve Microsoft’s proposed $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard has significant implications for both the gaming industry and the broader landscape of antitrust regulation. This analysis examines the key elements and potential consequences of the ruling.
Microsoft storesPositive Impact on Microsoft and Activision Blizzard: The market’s immediate response to the news was positive, as reflected in the 10 percent increase in Activision’s share price. This indicates investor confidence in the merger and suggests that they see potential benefits for both companies involved. For Microsoft, the acquisition of Activision Blizzard provides an opportunity to expand its presence in the lucrative gaming industry, gaining access to popular game franchises such as “Call of Duty,” “World of Warcraft,” and “Diablo.”

Setback for Biden’s Antitrust Efforts: The judge’s decision also dealt a blow to President Joe Biden’s antitrust efforts, which aim to promote competition and protect consumers. The rejection of the administration’s contention that the merger would harm consumers implies that the court does not view the deal as anti-competitive or detrimental to market dynamics. This outcome may make it more challenging for the Biden administration to pursue similar antitrust cases in the future.

Potential Resolution in the UK: The ruling prompted the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to express its willingness to consider Microsoft’s proposals to address antitrust concerns in the UK. This development suggests that Microsoft and the CMA may reach a resolution, potentially leading to a smoother approval process for the deal. The UK’s position on the merger is noteworthy because it aligns with the US in opposing the deal, making the CMA’s stance a significant factor in the overall outcome.

Impact on Competition and Market Dynamics: One of the primary concerns raised by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was that Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard could lead to reduced competition in the gaming industry. Specifically, the FTC argued that Microsoft would gain an unfair advantage by using exclusive access to Activision Blizzard’s games, such as “Call of Duty,” to edge out competitors like Nintendo and Sony. However, Judge Corley dismissed these concerns, stating that the FTC had not demonstrated sufficient evidence to support its claims.

Potential Concessions by Microsoft: To address the antitrust concerns raised by the FTC, Microsoft has reportedly agreed to license “Call of Duty” to rivals, including a 10-year contract with Nintendo. These concessions indicate Microsoft’s willingness to address competition-related issues and maintain a level playing field in the gaming market. Microsoft President Brad Smith’s statement about considering changes to address the CMA’s concerns further emphasizes the company’s commitment to addressing potential regulatory obstacles.

Growth and Future Prospects of the Gaming Industry: The judge’s decision to approve the merger reflects the significant growth and potential of the gaming market. With gaming market sales projected to increase by 36 percent over the next four years, reaching $321 billion, the industry is experiencing rapid expansion. The acquisition of Activision Blizzard positions Microsoft favorably in this growing market and provides an opportunity for further innovation and revenue generation.

In conclusion, the judge’s decision to approve Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard has several notable implications. It represents a setback for the Biden administration’s antitrust efforts while providing Microsoft with a significant opportunity for growth in the gaming industry.

The potential resolution of antitrust concerns in the UK and Microsoft’s concessions to address competition-related issues demonstrate the parties’ willingness to collaborate and reach agreements. As the gaming industry continues to expand, this merger could reshape the competitive landscape and have lasting effects on the gaming market.