Although the UK Competition and Markets Authority has today agreed to Microsoft's acquisition of Activision Blizzard, the regulator has had some harsh words to share about Microsoft's "tactics" along the way.
In an official press release, CMA chief executive Sarah Cardell criticised Microsoft's handling of the CMA's initial investigation (which resulted in the CMA blocking the deal), stating that the company "continued to insist on a package of measures that we told them simply wouldn’t work". Here's a longer excerpt of what she had to say:
"But businesses and their advisors should be in no doubt that the tactics employed by Microsoft are no way to engage with the CMA. Microsoft had the chance to restructure during our initial investigation but instead continued to insist on a package of measures that we told them simply wouldn’t work. Dragging out proceedings in this way only wastes time and money."
Ultimately, it was Microsoft's willingness to sell cloud streaming rights to Ubisoft that convinced the CMA to approve the acquisition, concluding that it's "better for competition, better for consumers and better for economic growth".
In fact, the entire press release is focused around these cloud streaming rights for Activision Blizzard titles, with the regulator suggesting that if Microsoft had retained them, it would have "lock[ed] up competition in cloud gaming as this market takes off". Instead, the CMA concludes that Ubisoft is a "strong and independent competitor with ambitious plans to offer new ways of accessing that content." As a result, Ubisoft will exclusively own the cloud versions of all Activision Blizzard games for the next 15 years outside the European Economic Area.
"The sale of Activision’s cloud streaming rights to Ubisoft will prevent the distribution of important, popular content – including games such as Call of Duty, Overwatch, and World of Warcraft – from coming under the control of Microsoft in relation to cloud gaming. The restructured deal substantially addressed the concerns that the CMA had following its original investigation, which concluded earlier this year."
"The CMA did identify limited residual concerns with the new deal, but Microsoft gave undertakings that will ensure that the terms of the sale of Activision’s rights to Ubisoft are enforceable by the CMA."