Microsoft was most likely ready for rigorous anti-trust scrutiny around the world when it decided to purchase Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion. The deal is the tech giant’s biggest yet, and it’s also set to become the largest all-cash acquisition ever. In the US, the proposed acquisition will be reviewed the Federal Trade Commission instead of the Justice Department, according to Bloomberg. The two agencies are in charge of investigating mergers in the country and typically decide between themselves which one will take charge of a case.
FTC’s investigation will reportedly take a close look at how Microsoft’s ownership of Activision could harm rivals by limiting access to the developer’s biggest games. Activision owns hugely popular IPs, including Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and Candy Crush. It’s unclear if Microsoft has plans to release titles exclusive to Xbox and Window PCs in the future, but it’s worth noting Sony is still ahead of Microsoft in terms of gaming hardware sales and that a large chunk of Activision’s revenue comes from PlayStation gamers.
Microsoft expects to close the acquisition by June 2023, and it’s probably not going to be easy for the company. As Bloomberg notes, the FTC vowed to adopt a more aggressive approach towards investigating mergers and acquisitions last year under new chairperson Lina Khan. In December, the FTC sued to block NVIDIA’s $40 billion purchase of ARM over concerns that the deal would stifle competition for various technologies, such as those for data centers and car computers.
A more recent Bloomberg report said NVIDIA is making preparations to walk away from the deal and that current ARM-owner SoftBank is looking to take the company public if the acquisition falls through. Still, the Microsoft seems to be confident that the acquisition will take place — Reuters says the tech giant committed to paying a $3 billion break fee if the deal fails to go through.