According to a leaked document obtained by Reuters, EU antitrust regulators have sent out a questionnaire, with about 100 questions, to game developers, publishers and distributors who would be impacted by the deal should it be approved.
Microsoft officially filed its case for the Activision Blizzard deal with the EU last Friday and the Commission has set a provisional deadline of November 8 to clear the transaction or choose to enter a second, more detailed investigation phase, like the UK competition watchdog recently chose to do.
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The questionnaire reportedly asks whether Microsoft will be incentivised to block competitors’ access to Activision Blizzard’s series, which include Call of Duty, Diablo and Overwatch, in order to boost its standing in both the console and PC spaces.
It also asks how important the Call of Duty franchise is for distributors of console games, and for providers of game subscription and cloud game streaming services.
Activision Blizzard’s games had 361 million monthly active users at the last official count in August. And like the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), EU regulators are keen to examine whether its collection of consumer data would give Microsoft a competitive advantage.
Respondents are also being asked whether the deal would impact their bargaining power when it comes to selling their games on Xbox consoles and Microsoft’s Game Pass subscription service.
Backing up previous claims that the EU probe into the deal will be a lengthy one, Reuters said the Commission is expected to launch a four-month phase two investigation following its initial ruling in November.
The acquisition is currently being scrutinised by regulators around the world. The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority has set a deadline of March 1, 2023 to publish the findings of its inquiry, while it’s been claimed that the FTC could decide whether to approve the deal by late November.
This week, Brazil’s Administrative Council for Economic Defense (CADE) said it had approved the merger with no restrictions.
Notably, the competition watchdog said it believed that even if the deal eventually resulted in PlayStation losing access to Activision Blizzard content, Sony would still have the means to remain competitive.
“CADE does not see that such an advantage represents a risk of closing this market for current competitors,” it said. “As is already seen, Nintendo does not currently rely on any content from Activision Blizzard to compete in the market.”
It added: “Although it is recognised that some PlayStation users could decide to migrate to Xbox in the event that Activision Blizzard games (especially Call of Duty) become exclusive to the Microsoft ecosystem, CADE does not believe that such a possibility represents, in itself, a risk to competition in the console market as a whole.”