It is not one, but several sticks that sit in the wheels of Microsoft in connection with the acquisition of Activision Blizzard. Just two weeks after the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) opposed the takeover, a new complaint surfaced. This time it comes from 10 American players. They represent the consumer side of the case and hope to weigh in the balance to defeat “the largest technology transaction ever in the video game market”.
If it may seem pretentious to see a handful of people oppose a financial deal from big corporations, the plaintiffs are right after all. Under Clayton’s antitrust laws, US consumers have the same rights as industry competitors to object to such acquisitions. This allows the courts to assess competition issues from the perspective of consumers. And these players have arguments to make to demonstrate that this takeover risks causing a lot of damage to consumers.
Microsoft, the king of the industry
The complaint refers to “grossly oversized market power” which Microsoft will own in the event of a takeover of the studio. Gamers fear that the acquisition of licenses from Activision Blizzard will cause prices to rise and affect the quality of the games released. The plaintiffs argue in the court document that gamers are particularly sensitive to price increases imposed by publishers, as it is difficult, if not impossible, for them to replace their favorite games, as each license is particularly unique, with no equivalent. .
Microsoft’s stranglehold on flagship licenses such as call of duty will allow, if the Company wishes, to deprive players of access to certain platforms or services outside the Microsoft gaming ecosystem. A concern shared by Sony, who fear that certain games from their PlayStation console would disappear.
Words in the air
Despite Microsoft’s promises and commitments to make available call of duty on the Nintendo Switch for the next 10 years, the plaintiffs point out that the company could go back on its word once the purchase is complete, especially since it has done so in the past with Starfield and the acquisition of Zenimax in 2020. Even if Microsoft keeps its commitment, there is no guarantee to players that games available on other consoles and ecosystems will be available at the same time, with the same quality and the same updates as on Microsoft the products.
Finally, the plaintiffs claim that such a takeover would lead to a dangerous competitive monopoly situation. The complaint alleges that the industry suffers from reduced wages, limited freedom and deteriorating working conditions, with Microsoft in a strong position to dictate industry standards: “The industry competition brought by Activision Blizzard must be preserved to ensure that the next generation of video game innovation and value is empowered by competition, not stifled by coalition.” So it seems that no one but Microsoft is looking very positively at this deal.