The Microsoft Activision Blizzard deal is one step closer to completion today as the UK watchdog previously standing in its way announces its provisional approval of recent changes made. Under the reworked deal, Ubisoft would instead purchase Activision’s cloud gaming rights, addressing concerns from the CMA that Microsoft’s acquisition of said rights “would harm competition in cloud gaming in the UK.” The organization is now consulting on the proposed remedies before it makes its final decision.
The proposed deal, which would see Microsoft acquire the makers of some of the biggest and best PC games including Call of Duty, Diablo 4, World of Warcraft, Overwatch 2, and more, ran into a stumbling block in the UK, with the CMA declaring that its primary concern was around the level of control the deal would give Microsoft over the cloud gaming market. As such, Microsoft proposed a new deal in August which would see Assassin’s Creed and The Division publisher Ubisoft instead purchase those cloud gaming rights.
On the morning of Friday September 22, 2023, the UK’s CMA (Competition and Markets Authority) sent out a press release via the UK government website stating that the “new Microsoft/Activision deal addresses previous CMA concerns in cloud gaming.” It notes that “The prior sale of the cloud gaming rights will establish Ubisoft as a key supplier of content to cloud gaming services, replicating the role that Activision would have played in the market as an independent player.”
This, according to the CMA, prevents Microsoft reaching “a position to limit access to Activision’s key content to its own cloud gaming service or to withhold those games from rivals.” Contrary to formerly proposed solutions, it continues, “Ubisoft will be free to offer Activision’s games both directly to consumers and to all cloud gaming service providers however it chooses, including for buy-to-play or multigame subscription services, or any new model for providing content that might emerge as the market develops.”
These rights would include some of the biggest online games, such as Call of Duty, Overwatch 2, and World of Warcraft, from falling under Microsoft’s sole control. The CMA also notes that “Microsoft has offered remedies to ensure that the terms of the sale of Activision’s rights to Ubisoft are enforceable by the CMA,” to resolve additional concerns that the sale of the rights to Ubisoft could dodge certain provisions.
Microsoft vice chair and president Brad Smith responds to the deal, saying, “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.”
Don’t hold your breath quite yet, however, as the CMA has now entered a consultation period to discuss these proposed remedies. This is set to conclude in two weeks, on Friday October 6, 2023, when we’ll know whether Microsoft’s adjusted deal has been successful. It’s certainly the most likely UK approval has looked since the deal’s announcement, and further good news for Microsoft after its defeat of an FTC injunction.
Activision Blizzard, in the meantime, is preparing for the Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 release date, marking the 20th game in the series, exactly two decades after the release of the first.