Microsoft has closed its largest acquisition ever, exceeding the US$26bn Microsoft paid to acquire LinkedIn in 2016 and the US$7.5bn it reportedly paid to acquire Bethesda in 2021, as UK regulators approved its bid to purchase Activision Blizzard.
First announced in January 2022, the new deal for Microsoft to buy Activision without cloud gaming rights has been cleared after the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) concluded it ‘would preserve competitive prices and better services’.
“We’re grateful for the CMA’s thorough review and decision today,” Microsoft Vice Chair and President Brad Smith wrote on X. “We have now crossed the final regulatory hurdle to close this acquisition, which we believe will benefit players and the gaming industry worldwide.”
Regulator raises concerns over future cloud gaming market
In April, the CMA blocked the deal, suggesting it would “alter the future of the fast-growing cloud gaming market”, resulting in “reduced innovation and less choice for UK gamers” over the coming years.
The authority elaborated by saying Microsoft’s solutions had failed to effectively address concerns which were outlined in its provisional findings in February. These largely revolved around cloud gaming, which is growing rapidly in the UK and is forecast to be worth almost US$14bn globally by 2026.
In August Microsoft said it had restructured its proposed bid to buy Activision Blizzard, maker of game series including Call of Duty and World of Warcraft. Under the restructured transaction, Microsoft said it would not be in a position either to release Activision Blizzard games exclusively on its own cloud streaming service – Xbox Cloud Gaming – or to exclusively control the licensing terms of Activision Blizzard games for rival services.
“Players have always been at the center of everything we do,” wrote Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer. “And as we grow, we’ll continue to keep players at the heart of it all. We’ll continue to listen to your feedback, build a community where you can be yourself, where developers can do their best work, and continue to make really fun games.
“As promised, we will also continue to make more games available in more places – and that begins now by enabling cloud streaming providers and players to stream Activision Blizzard games in the European Economic Area, a commitment made to the European Commission.”
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