Although the European Union still has a month to either approve Microsoft’s vast purchase or launch an in-depth investigation, it has already raised an issue that should make Xbox boss Phil Spencer nervous…
While Saudi Arabia and Brazil have approved the Satya Nadella-led US tech giant’s $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard, the EU is far from ready to accept one of Microsoft’s most severe moves towards the gaming industry’s consolidation. The antitrust regulators are asking several developers whether Microsoft will benefit if the Bobby Kotick-led publisher’s IPs and games don’t appear on rival platforms (PlayStation is the main one, but let’s not write off the Nintendo Switch).
Reuters has stumbled across a document that tells us that lawmakers want to know something else: Activision Blizzard has a ton of user data… and would Microsoft have a competitive advantage if it developed games for console and PC? The other question is not bad either: would there be a viable alternative after the deal closes if Activision Blizzard’s games were only available on Xbox and PC? Answers to whether rivals such as Nvidia GeForce Now, PlayStation, Facebook Gaming, Amazon Luna and Google Stadia would become attractive after the deal is accepted are also expected by October 10. (It must be an old question because Stadia will be dead by the end of January!)
In any case, Microsoft is trying, as the Redmond company has even set up a website, to list how everyone would benefit from the acquisition. Still, after the ZeniMax Media takeover, we have some experience with what the tech company is doing. Bethesda Game Studios’ two games, Starfield and The Elder Scrolls VI, are already skipping PlayStation. Even though Call of Duty is a more prominent IP, it’s a safe bet that Redmond is eager to filter Sony out of the annual FPS.