FTC attempting to block Microsoft Activision deal

FTC attempting to block Microsoft Activision deal

The United States' Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is suing Microsoft to stop its acquisition of Activision Blizzard.

The organisation believes that should this deal go through, it would have a harmful impact on the video games industry. The FTC says that given Microsoft's track record of buying companies then making their content exclusive to its own platforms – such as that of Bethesda parent ZeniMax Media – that it's not impossible that it would eventually do the same with Activision Blizzard's products.

The brand at the centre of all this is Call of Duty, with rival company Sony Interactive Entertainment saying it would be impacted were this to become an Xbox-exclusive franchise. Microsoft's games chief Phil Spencer has said that there are no plans to only have Call of Duty on its services.

The vote to sue was won three-to-one following reporting that there was a deadlock on the commission.

“Microsoft has already shown that it can and will withhold content from its gaming rivals,” the director of the FTC's Bureau of Competition Holly Vedova said.

“Today we seek to stop Microsoft from gaining control over a leading independent game studio and using it to harm competition in multiple dynamic and fast-growing gaming markets.”

Execs at both Microsoft and Activision Blizzard have responded to the news saying that that deal is close to closing and that there is no competition concern.

"We continue to believe that our deal to acquire Activision Blizzard will expand competition and create more opportunities for gamers and game developers," Microsoft president Brad Smith wrote on Twitter.

"We have been committed since Day One to addressing competition concerns, including by offering earlier this week proposed concessions to the FTC. While we believe in giving peace a chance, we have complete confidence in our case and welcome the opportunity to present it in court."

In a release to investors, Activision Blizzard boss Robert Kotick added: "I want to reinforce my confidence that this deal will close. The allegation that this deal is anti-competitive doesn't align with the facts, and we believe we’ll win this challenge.

"Thanks to the hard work by all of you every day, we’re on a strong path, bringing epic joy to players around the world with what I believe are the greatest games in the industry. At the same time, the competitive landscape is shifting, and, simply put, a combined Microsoft-ABK will be good for players, good for employees, good for competition and good for the industry. Our players want choice, and this gives them exactly that. You can read more about the specifics on those points in this update we recently shared with you.

"We believe these arguments will win despite a regulatory environment focused on ideology and misconceptions about the tech industry."

PCGamesInsider Contributing Editor

Alex Calvin is a freelance journalist who writes about the business of games. He started out at UK trade paper MCV in 2013 and left as deputy editor over three years later. In June 2017, he joined Steel Media as the editor for new site In October 2019 he left this full-time position at the company but still contributes to the site on a daily basis. He has also written for, VGC, Games London, The Observer/Guardian and Esquire UK.