AP – Microsoft’s plan to buy video game giant Activision Blizzard for USD68.7 billion could have major effects on the gaming industry, transforming the Xbox maker into something like a Netflix for video games by giving it control of many more popular titles.
But to get to the next level, Microsoft must first survive a barrage of government inquiries from New Zealand to Brazil, and from United States (US) regulators emboldened by President Joe Biden to strengthen their enforcement of antitrust laws.
More than seven months after Microsoft announced the deal, only Saudi Arabia has announced its approval, although an upcoming decision from the United Kingdom to close or escalate its antitrust probe could signal what’s to come. That decision is expected to be soon.
“A growing number of countries are subjecting major global transactions to deeper scrutiny,” said William Kovacic, a former chairman of the five-member US Federal Trade Commission.
“Many of the jurisdictions that are exercising that scrutiny are significant economies and can’t be brushed off.”
Microsoft has faced antitrust scrutiny before, mostly notably more than two decades ago when a federal judge ordered its breakup following the company’s anticompetitive actions related to its dominant Windows software. That verdict was overturned on appeal, although the court imposed other, less drastic, penalties on the company.
In recent years, however, Microsoft has largely escaped the more intense regulatory backlash its Big Tech rivals such as Amazon, Google and Facebook’s parent company Meta have endured. But the sheer size of the Activision Blizzard merger has drawn global attention.
The all-cash deal is set to be the largest in the history of the tech industry. It would give Microsoft, maker of the Xbox console and gaming system, control of popular game franchises such as Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and Candy Crush. There’s also a growing sense that past review of Big Tech mergers was too lax – such as when Facebook bought Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014.