Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard deal provisionally approved by UK regulator

The Xbox logo next to Captain Price in Modern Warfare 3.
Credit: Activision/Xbox.

Since Microsoft originally announced its plans to acquire Activision Blizzard, the publisher of Call of Duty and Overwatch for $68.7 billion, it’s been grappling with legislators around the world to gain permission to close that deal.

The company has recently been dealing with the fallout of a huge leak of confidential Xbox documents, including a Bethesda release roadmap from 2020, that it submitted as part of court proceedings between it and the American Federal Trade Commission.

Prior to this development, Microsoft had been focusing on trying to earn the approval of UK regulators for its Activision deal, which has now been provisionally granted.

UK’s CMA provisionally allows Microsoft acquisition to go ahead

After the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority blocked the version of deal initially presented to it back in April, citing concerns over how it could affect competition in the cloud gaming market, Microsoft submitted a revised iteration that included plans to sell cloud streaming rights to Ubisoft.

In its provisional decision on this restructured version of the deal, posted on September 22 the CMA has said that “the sale of Activision’s cloud gaming rights to Ubisoft substantially addresses previous concerns and opens the door to the deal being cleared.”

It added that it “has limited residual concerns that certain provisions in the sale of Activision’s cloud streaming rights to Ubisoft could be circumvented, terminated, or not enforced,” but that “Microsoft has offered remedies to ensure that the terms of the sale of Activision’s rights to Ubisoft are enforceable by the CMA.”

As a result, the regulator “has provisionally concluded that this additional protection should resolve those residual concerns” and has opened a consultation on the remedies that’s set to run until October 6, prior to making a final decision on the deal.

“The CMA’s position has been consistent throughout – this merger could only go ahead if competition, innovation, and choice in cloud gaming was preserved,” CMA CEO Sarah Cardell said of the provisional decision. “In response to our original prohibition, Microsoft has now substantially restructured the deal, taking the necessary steps to address our original concerns.”

She added: “It would have been far better, though, if Microsoft had put forward this restructure during our original investigation. This case illustrates the costs, uncertainty and delay that parties can incur if a credible and effective remedy option exists but is not put on the table at the right time.”

In response to the development, Microsoft Vice Chair and President Brad Smith tweeted: “We are encouraged by this positive development in the CMA’s review process. We presented solutions that we believe fully address the CMA’s remaining concerns related to cloud game streaming, and we will continue to work toward earning approval to close prior to the October 18 deadline.”

Make sure to check out the rest of our coverage of the Microsoft-Activision Blizzard deal saga, as well as our array of guides to the latest developments in Call of Duty Warzone, Modern Warfare 2, and the upcoming Modern Warfare 3.

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