back to article FTC wants to pause Microsoft's Activision Blizzard mega-takeover

The Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit on Thursday seeking to block Microsoft's $69 billion acquisition of video game studio Activision Blizzard, claiming the merger would suppress competition. The Windows giant announced plans to scoop up Activision, the makers of the popular Call of Duty and World of Warcraft …

  1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Well, that's a shock!

    "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,"

    Someone at the FTC has actually and finally got a handle on how MS operates. Wow!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Well, that's a shock!

      Probably a Mac user :).

      Joking aside, they either have indeed started to learn from past experience and actually do their job, or they're holding out for bigger bribes and a cushy job.

      Oh no, wait, that used to be the Irish DPA, my bad.

  2. MachDiamond Silver badge

    A ten year agreement

    So what if Call of Duty will still be published on another platform for the next ten years? Is there also any guarantee that CoD will continue to be in development for that long or will it be faded out in favor of a new title that is very similar in play, but with a new title and worlds?

    The minimum acceptable would be an agreement that M$ will publish all of their game titles on all relevant gaming platforms simultaneously for the next 25 years. Since it's highly unlikely they'd go that far, game over.

    1. aks

      Re: A ten year agreement

      Alternatively, Activision's experience and credibility on these other platforms might allow Microsoft to sell it's home-developed products more widely while using any FTC agreement to counter accusations of fishing in other people's waters.

    2. conscience

      Re: A ten year agreement

      Good point about whether CoD will still be a thing in 10 years.

      Remember the lawsuit by Virgin Media TV vs Sky over access to Sky's then flagship Sky One channel and all the popular programmes it showed? The court gave Virgin access to the Sky One channel on their own platform, so Sky just created a new channel called Sky Atlantic which Virgin didn't have access to and put all their good new programmes on that channel instead. Last I heard (some time ago), Sky One was still showing the same old repeats they were showing at the time of the court case! And while Virgin customers can now view it, the channel ceased to be an attraction the moment the judge's gavel banged. Virgin's mistake was asking for specifics, if it had asked for access to all of Sky's channels on an on-going basis instead of naming Sky One then Sky couldn't have weasled out of the judgement.

      Same risk with Microsoft pulling the same trick, which I presume is why they are offering access to specific titles which can then be reworked and renamed to make sure nobody but themselves gets access to all of Activision/Blizzard's latest games, and with no agreement to publish any of them anywhere except Windows and XBox.

      With no future updates, it wouldn't take long before CoD (or any other named title) was obsolete and worthless to competing platforms.

  3. Spazturtle Silver badge

    The FTC cannot get legally binding concessions from Microsoft without first suing them.

    It is also worth noting that they are suing Microsoft in their own administrative court and not the federal court.

    So it looks like the FTC are trying to extract legally binding concessions from Microsoft.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If I were Sony I'd be concerned no matter how this goes. Their interference may have cost Bobby and his executive pals their fat exit bonuses. Better enjoy that 3 year deal while you've got it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Of course if this deal flops MS has tens of billions to throw around and play the same exclusive game Sony likes to.

  5. Zippy´s Sausage Factory

    "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."

    That sounds to me like Microsoft seem to believe they're entering a new era of deploying their flock of Saul Goodmans* and playing hardball until everyone just gives in. Which is potentially worrying.

    *or should that be Goodmen? Not sure on that one...

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No, please no!

    I'm a gamer, and definitely opposed to Microsoft buying Activision (or whoever else actually).

    Microsoft had a period where they tried making games and managed to be rather good at it ("Flight Sim", "Age of Empires" series) but now they're only a greedy mindless ogre trying to get a bite out of whatever comes into reach and utterly destroying whatever they touch.

    1. conscience

      Re: No, please no!

      Microsoft didn't develop Age of Empires or Flight Simulator, they bought them both from other companies.

      Ensemble made Age of Empires, and both AoE 1 and 2 were already on sale several years before MS bought the company. Under Microsoft's ownership, Ensemble only made three more games - Age of Mythology, AoE 3 and Halo Wars - before MS disbanded them and their staff went elsewhere. They were still making Halo Wars when MS fired all their staff and offered cash to some soon to be fired developers to stay behind a while to finish it off. Nice way to kill your dev studio who sold 20m games worth half a billion dollars!

      The flight sim was initially licenced from Bruce Artwick, who specialised in making flight simulation software. There was a top-selling version for the Apple II, and so naturally MS wanted it too and licenced one of their flight sims in 1981 to show how superior the graphics were on the 16-bit PC compared to the 8-bit Apple II. Atwick's new company was bought by MS in 1995 and renamed Ace Games Studio, who then further developed the game before they too were closed down around the same time as Ensemble, in 2009. MS sold the source code for the game to Lockheed Martin who now sell it for hundreds of dollars a copy.

      Microsoft have always been greedy, but they were never good at making games, Microsoft is where good games companies go to die.

      1. Piro Silver badge

        Re: No, please no!

        They did used to make sweet joysticks and other gaming controllers though.


        I had a FreeStyle Pro and a Strategic Commander!

        I drooled over the force feedback gear, the sticks, the wheel!

  7. Filippo Silver badge

    I've often posted in favor of regulation against monopolies, but I'm not sure about this one.

    I'm taking Call of Duty as an example, but the reasoning is the same for any other franchise. So, MS would have a monopoly on Call of Duty, but it's not like they'd have a monopoly on games, or even on FPSes. Activision/Blizzard owns a lot of franchises, that's true, but it's hardly a monopoly, even adding it to Microsoft. There are lots of companies making AAA games, and the indie scene is fairly healthy, and it's an industry where the barrier to entry is comparatively low.

    Making CoD and a bunch of other stuff Xbox exclusive hardly means "forcing" gamers to use Microsoft platforms. There are other FPSes out there, and they are just as good, and if there aren't then there will be: the acquisition would do nothing to raise barriers to other developers, who would probably be happy to do their best to pick up Playstation gamers orphaned of CoD.

    Sure, there are gamers that absolutely want to play CoD and specifically CoD and nothing but CoD, and I respect that but it just sounds like brand loyalty to me. Surely purchasing mere brand loyalty is not a monopoly action?

    Compare this with the famous Windows wars: in the bad old days, you basically could not purchase any consumer PC without Microsoft getting their slice; any alternative channels were really rather difficult to get at for an average person. I don't know, but this really doesn't feel like the same kind of problem.

    1. Inkey

      "CoD and nothing but CoD, and I respect that but it just sounds like brand loyalty to me."

      Yes and only on PS....

      So if it's only x-box then no ... I'm done with m$..

      They are too big woefully inefficient and complete and utter whores for profit.

      It's brand loyalty and very much not m$ ... never again... in a perfect world their relavancy would have disappeared by now ...

  8. Kev18999

    We need game companies to stay being game companies and not these big companies buy up the entire ecosystems. MS knows that their own dev studios suck and can't turn out quality games. They don't know nor cares about how to be like Nintendo. If nintendo was for sale then M$ would definitely pay the ransom. If Sony or MS swallowed up all of the game IPs there won't be any new quality games. There will be more DLCs.

    When EA bought out Maxis for Sims. Look what happened, Sims 3 became this massive DLC money grab and Sim 4 is the same.

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