The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigation into Microsoft‘s acquisition of Activision Blizzard is likely to focus on consumer data that both companies hold, and the potential impact on the labour market, according to a new report.
According to The Information (paywalled, transcribed by Seeking Alpha), FTC chair Lina Khan will “examine the deal with an eye to the combined companies’ access to consumer data, the game developer labour market and the deal’s impact on those workers who have accused Activision of discrimination and a hostile workplace”.
The Information also reports that the FTC is looking into the potential impact on a competitive metaverse following the acquisition.
Last month the FTC asked Microsoft and Activision Blizzard for additional information as it continues to review the proposed acquisition deal.
According to a proxy filing published by Activision Blizzard, both it and Microsoft “each received a request for additional information and documentary material […] from the FTC in connection with the FTC’s review of the transaction.”
The request isn’t necessarily an indication that there’s an issue with the proposed acquisition, or that the FTC is shaping up to try to block the deal in any way. Rather, it’s an expected step when reviewing a deal this large.
If it’s successfully completed, the Activision Blizzard acquisition will mean that Xbox will gain exclusive ownership of some of the industry’s biggest franchises including Call of Duty, Warcraft, Overwatch, Crash Bandicoot, Guitar Hero and more.
The deal is expected to close in Microsoft’s fiscal year 2023, but this is subject to closing conditions and completion of regulatory review.
Competition law seeks to maintain market competition by regulating anti-competitive conduct by companies. In the case of mergers and acquisitions, regulators can prohibit deals that are considered to threaten market competition or suggest remedies such as an obligation to divest part of the new business.
Microsoft reportedly plans to keep making “some” Activision Blizzard games for PlayStation consoles following the takeover, and Xbox head Phil Spencer has claimed that “it’s not our intent to pull communities away from that platform”.
Microsoft president Brad Smith later reiterated that the acquisition would not prevent future Activision Blizzard games from being released on PlayStation consoles, and that it wanted to release more franchises, including Call of Duty, on Switch.