The Federal Trade Commission is likely to file an antitrust lawsuit to block Microsoft’s $69 billion takeover of gaming giant Activision Blizzard, maker of hit games Call of Duty and Candy Crush, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.
A lawsuit would be the FTC’s biggest move yet under President Lina Khan to curb the power of the world’s biggest tech companies. It would also be a major blow to Microsoft, which has positioned itself as something of a white knight on antitrust issues in the tech sector after going through its own grueling regulatory antitrust battles around the world more than two decades ago. .
A lawsuit challenging the deal is not guaranteed, and the four FTC commissioners have not yet dismissed a complaint or met with the companies’ lawyers, two of the people said. However, FTC staff reviewing the deal are skeptical of Microsoft’s arguments, these people said.
The investigation is still ongoing, but much of the bulk of the work has been completed, including depositions from Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella and Activision chief Bobby Kotick, people familiar with the incident said. ‘investigation. If the agency goes ahead with a lawsuit, it could come as soon as next month, said the people, who all requested anonymity to discuss a confidential matter.
At the heart of the FTC’s concerns is whether the acquisition of Activision would give Microsoft an unfair boost in the video game market. Microsoft’s Xbox is number three behind industry-leading Sony Interactive Entertainment and its PlayStation console. Sony, however, became the deal’s main opponent, telling the FTC and regulators in other countries that if Microsoft forced hit games like Call of Duty exclusive to its platforms, Sony would be at a significant disadvantage.
The FTC declined to comment.
To a lesser extent, Google is also an opponent of the deal, according to two of the people with knowledge of the matter. The company argued that Microsoft deliberately downgraded the quality of its Game Pass subscription service when used with Google’s Chrome operating system, and owning Activision would bolster its incentive to do so, ultimately driving sales of hardware towards Microsoft and away from Google, the people said.
The FTC’s concerns go beyond Call of Duty, however, and investigators are trying to determine how Microsoft could leverage future unannounced titles to boost its gaming business, according to two people with knowledge of the review.