Microsoft is still far from having its proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard approved by regulators. In recent months, the UK Competition and Markets Authority has been the most upfront with its opposition to the deal. Now, Microsoft is trying to win support from the people of the UK in order to convince regulators that the merger will be beneficial for gamers.
The Verge correspondent Tom Warren reported that Microsoft ran full-page ads about its planned acquisition of Activision Blizzard. The ads appeared in both the Financial Times and Daily Mail this week.
The ad claims that the merger will bring Call of Duty to 150 million more players upon approval. Both Nintendo and Nvidia accepted Microsoft’s offer for a ten-year licensing deal to bring the best-selling first-person shooter to their platforms. Nintendo has sold around 122 million units of the popular Switch handheld, while Nvidia’s GeForce Now cloud gaming service has 25 million users.
Microsoft has placed a full-page ad in two newspapers in the UK today for its Activision Blizzard deal. "Call of Duty for 150 million more players," argues Microsoft as it pushes for its deal to be approved by UK regulators https://t.co/An7Lo465UK pic.twitter.com/PkayLYfEh8
— Tom Warren (@tomwarren) March 8, 2023
The UK CMA released its provisional findings last month and found that Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard could reduce competition and "result in higher prices, fewer choices, or less innovation."
The provisional findings suggest that the deal will be blocked entirely or that the parts of the business related to Call of Duty be sold off and be removed from being included in the merger.
The CMA report also said that behavioral remedies such as Microsoft’s offer to make Call of Duty available on other platforms can be considered, but will be less favorable. The regulator stated that the structural changes to the terms of the acquisition do not need constant monitoring and enforcement once in place.
The published findings explained that Microsoft could apply a range of strategies to stifle competition if the deal gets passed. The company could withhold games or content from its rivals and degrade the quality of titles released on other platforms.
Sony responded that the behavioral remedies may not sufficiently address the concerns of the regulators, suggesting a "myriad ways Microsoft could withhold or degrade access [which] would be extremely difficult to monitor and police." Sony added that its rival could release a buggy or broken game in order to sway players to transfer to Xbox for fear that PlayStation is the inferior platform to play their favorite game on.
In response to the provisional findings, Microsoft revealed that it had given Sony the option to release future Call of Duty games on PlayStation Plus. However, the PlayStation maker said that the offer will be reliant on unsustainable licensing costs which would lead to higher subscription fees for its players.
Microsoft also said that it is willing to pay for a third-party assessor to oversee the company’s compliance with the ten-year licensing deal. The tech giant has said that the deal is legally enforceable and will have full content and feature parity with the Xbox version, going as far as to claim that it's confident it can do it on the Nintendo Switch if the deal pushes through.
Sony has yet to accept any offer from Microsoft. The current deal between Activision Blizzard and PlayStation is set to expire next year. If the deal isn’t renewed, PlayStation will only have access to two more Call of Duty titles before the end of the licensing agreement.