The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has filed a lawsuit today to block Microsoft’s $69 billion acquisition of giant video game publisher Activision Blizzard.
The lawsuit, as first reported by The Washington Post, will look to block the tech giant Microsoft from acquiring one of the largest gaming publishers in the world in Activision Blizzard, the publisher of some of gaming’s biggest franchises, such as Call of Duty, Warcraft, and numerous others.
In the FTC’s official release, the Commission said the deal “would enable Microsoft to suppress competitors to its Xbox gaming consoles and its rapidly growing subscription content and cloud-gaming business.”
The FTC even pointed to Microsoft’s acquisition of ZeniMax, the parent company of Fallout and Skyrim developer Bethesda Softworks, as a recorded instance of the company “acquiring and using valuable gaming content to suppress competition from rival consoles.” It claims Microsoft’s decision to make titles like Redfall and Starfield exclusive to Xbox and PC went against “assurances it had given to European antitrust authorities that it had no incentive to withhold games from rival consoles.”
“With control over Activision’s blockbuster franchises, Microsoft would have both the means and motive to harm competition by manipulating Activision’s pricing, degrading Activision’s game quality or player experience on rival consoles and gaming services, changing the terms and timing of access to Activision’s content, or withholding content from competitors entirely, resulting in harm to consumers,” the FTC’s report reads.
Microsoft’s biggest fears have come to pass. Over the past few months, the deal has been subjected to scrutinous investigations from regulatory commissions all over the world, not just in the U.S. The deal has been highly publicized by the ongoing back-and-forth between Microsoft and Sony about the future of Call of Duty on other platforms. Just a day before the FTC filed its lawsuit, Microsoft locked in a 10-year deal to bring CoD to Nintendo in a move seemingly designed just to spite Sony.
“We continue to believe that this deal will expand competition and create more opportunities for gamers and game developers,” Brad Smith, Microsoft’s vice chair and president, said in a statement to The Verge. “We have been committed since Day One to addressing competition concerns, including by offering earlier this week proposed concessions to the FTC. While we believed in giving peace a chance, we have complete confidence in our case and welcome the opportunity to present our case in court.”