UK regulator says public responses to Xbox’s Activision deal were mostly supportive of the merger

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has released a summary of the responses it received after inviting members of the public to share their views on Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard.

In October the CMA published an issues statement which laid out the main areas it was likely to consider in reaching a decision on whether the $69 billion deal would result in a substantial lessening of competition.

It also invited members of the public to respond to the issues statement over a two-week period.

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“Of the 2,100 emails that we reviewed, around three quarters were broadly in favor of the Merger and around a quarter were broadly against the Merger,” the CMA said in a summary of the responses published on Wednesday.

“No clear view was expressed for or against the merger by a small number of respondents.”

The CMA listed 14 views expressed in favor of the merger and 11 views expressed against it.

Some who argued in favor of the deal said it would allow Microsoft to better compete with Sony and Nintendo, who are bigger players in the gaming industry.

Others said the merger would not harm rivals because Microsoft has committed to keeping Activision content like Call of Duty non-exclusive.

It was also argued that Microsoft’s plans to add Call of Duty to Xbox Game Pass are pro-competitive and will lower the price of accessing games for consumers.

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On the flip side, some who opposed the deal said they didn’t want Microsoft to become as dominant in the gaming space as it already is in PC operating systems.

Others claimed the deal could pave the way for future acquisitions of other leading publishers like Take Two, EA and Ubisoft.

And some said the deal could incentivise Microsoft to make Call of Duty exclusive to Xbox, like it has with some Bethesda games following its acquisition of ZeniMax Media, or to lower the quality of Call of Duty titles on PlayStation.

In September, the CMA said its inquiry into the merger had officially been expanded into a second phase due to a number of antitrust concerns.

Notably, the watchdog is worried about the impact the deal could have on PlayStation’s ability to compete, given that the deal would see Microsoft gain ownership of the Call of Duty series.

The CMA has spent the last few months gathering further evidence, issuing questionnaires, and holding hearings with the relevant parties. It plans to notify them of its provisional findings and possible remedies to any competition concerns it may still hold in January.

The final deadline for all parties’ responses will be in February, ahead of the publication of the CMA’s final report on March 1. Ultimately, the CMA has the authority to block mergers and acquisitions from being completed.