As reported by Bloomberg, the FTC will investigate the deal to determine whether the takeover of the publishing giant constitutes unfair competition, according to a person speaking to the organisation anonymously.
It is understood that the deal will not be reviewed by the Justice Department, which typically works with the FTC to rule on similar cases.
Microsoft declined to comment about the review when reached out to by Bloomberg. The FTC also didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The Activision Blizzard acquisition means 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. However, 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 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”.