The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which “works to promote competition for the benefit of consumers”, announced today that it has opened an investigation into the $68.7 billion deal—the game industry’s biggest ever by some distance—to determine whether it’s a fair one.
In a statement provided to CNBC, the CMA said its investigation would “consider whether the deal could harm competition and lead to worse outcomes for consumers – for example, through higher prices, lower quality, or reduced choice.”
The regulator is running a consultation until July 20, during which time it wants to receive feedback from any third parties with an interest in the proposed deal.
A deadline of September 1 has been set for the CMS to give its initial decision on the matter.
The CMA’s investigation joins that of its American equivalent, the Federal Trade Commission, which is conducting an antitrust review of the deal to determine whether the takeover would give Xbox an unfair competitive advantage.
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.
Microsoft’s proposed merger with Activision Blizzard would give the Xbox maker exclusive ownership of franchises including Call of Duty, Warcraft, Overwatch, Crash Bandicoot and Candy Crush.
Should it gain regulatory approval, Microsoft has said it will continue to release Activision Blizzard games, including Call of Duty titles, for PlayStation consoles following the acquisition and beyond existing contractual agreements, and that it wants to make more of the publisher’s games available to Nintendo players too.
Microsoft hopes to complete the deal in the first half of 2023, subject to closing conditions and the completion of regulatory reviews.