The Xbox maker announced on Tuesday that it intends to acquire Activision Blizzard in a record-smashing $68.7 billion deal.
While Microsoft hopes to complete the buyout by June 2023, the deal will first need to clear the scrutiny of antitrust regulators.
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 which are considered to threaten market competition or suggest remedies such as an obligation to divest part of the new business.
Reacting to Microsoft’s plans, DFC Intelligence said in a research note: “Will this deal go through? Regulators will take a close look and franchises like Call of Duty may not be exclusive to Xbox platforms because of antitrust concerns.”
David Cole, who owns DFC, also told GamesIndustry.biz: “The big issue is if COD becomes a Microsoft exclusive. Right now, I don’t think [it will]. For one thing, it would be hard to get it past regulators if they want to lock the competition out.”
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”.
It’s worth noting however that Spencer made similar comments prior the completion of Microsoft’s $7.5 billion takeover of Bethesda parent company Zenimax last year.
While previously released Bethesda games such as The Elder Scrolls Online continue to be supported on PlayStation platforms, and pre-existing exclusivity deals for Deathloop and Ghostwire Tokyo have been honoured, Microsoft has since confirmed that the company’s big future games such as Starfield, Redfall and The Elder Scrolls 6 will be exclusive to Xbox and PC.
It’s been speculated that Call of Duty Warzone could remain available on PlayStation consoles after Xbox acquires Activision, but that future series entries may be released exclusively for platforms that support Xbox Game Pass.
Sony shares fell by nearly 13% in Tokyo on Wednesday following news of the Activision Blizzard deal. The movement represents Sony’s biggest drop since October 2008 and wiped $20 billion from its market valuation in a single day.
Midia Research estimates that Call of Duty is comfortably the most played series on consoles. According to the company, it’s played by 55% of console owners, ahead of Grand Theft Auto (41%), Fortnite and Assassin’s Creed (both 28%) and FIFA (23%).
Omdia’s principal analyst George Jijiashvili told GI.biz: “The proposed date of completion — fiscal year 2023 — for the acquisition will coincide with when more casual gamers will be looking to pick up a new console.
“Making Call of Duty exclusive to Xbox — or even just included as part of Game Pass — could be a major benefit for Xbox when these consumers decide between Xbox Series or PS5.”
Earlier today, Activision delayed the launch of Call of Duty Vanguard and Warzone Pacific Season 2 due to ongoing issues with the games and 2019’s Modern Warfare.