After the UK’s CMA blocked the deal just last month, Microsoft has secured something of a win in its continued bid to acquire Activision Blizzard King (ABK) to the tune of nearly $69 billion USD.
The European Commission has just rendered its own decision, conditionally approving the takeover thanks largely in part to commitments made by Microsoft in the area of cloud gaming – a field in which the CMA had flagged some of the concerns behind its decision to prevent the deal.
One of these commitments includes giving customers in the EU free access to stream all Activision Blizzard games that they have access to a license for, through any cloud streaming service, not just Microsoft’s. Providers of cloud gaming services will similarly have license to stream ABK games to their customers.
The commission highlights that Activision Blizzard does not currently offer a streaming service for its own games, nor does it stream them through other providers, meaning that this deal represents a step to customers who already own or have access to ABK titles will be able to stream them through their chosen cloud service as part of Microsoft’s commitments if the deal goes through.
Within the European Commission’s published report on the decision, Executive VP in charge of competition policy, Margrethe Vestager, is quoted as saying:
“Video games attract billions of users all over the world. In such a fast-growing and dynamic industry, it is crucial to protect competition and innovation. Our decision represents an important step in this direction, by bringing Activision’s popular games to many more devices and consumers than before thanks to cloud game streaming. The commitments offered by Microsoft will enable for the first time the streaming of such games in any cloud game streaming services, enhancing competition and opportunities for growth.”
In it’s report last month, the UK’s CMA had cited the following as its concerns over the acquisition as it stood:
It did not sufficiently cover different cloud gaming service business models, including multigame subscription services.
It was not sufficiently open to providers who might wish to offer versions of games on PC operating systems other than Windows.
It would standardise the terms and conditions on which games are available, as opposed to them being determined by the dynamism and creativity of competition in the market, as would be expected in the absence of the merger.
It’ll certainly be interesting to see where this develops from here, and whether Microsoft’s promise to appeal the CMA decision is given more weight following this more positive outcome from the EU.