Last week, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said its inquiry into the $68.7 billion merger may be expanded to a second phase due to a number of antitrust concerns.
Notably, it said it was worried about the impact the deal could have on PlayStation’s ability to compete, given that the deal would see Microsoft gain ownership of the Call of Duty series.
Campaign Early Access - Backstabbed | Modern Warfare II
According to the Financial Times, the CMA is expected to officially expand its antitrust probe this week after Microsoft chose not to offer any remedies to its concerns at this stage.
Phase two of the CMA’s investigation would see it appoint an independent panel to scrutinise the deal in further detail and evaluate if it’s more likely than not to result in a substantial lessening of competition.
According to the FT, regulators and others involved in the deal are also expecting a lengthy EU probe once Microsoft officially files its case in Brussels soon.
“It is a big deal, a difficult deal,” a Brussels source said to be familiar with the transaction told the publication. “It needs an extensive investigation.”
Earlier this month, Microsoft provided some clarification on its plans for the future of Call of Duty should the acquisition get the go ahead.
In a statement to The Verge, Xbox boss Phil Spencer said Microsoft had committed to making the series available on PlayStation for “several more years” after Sony’s current marketing deal with Activision expires.
During this period, Call of Duty games released for PlayStation would have “feature and content parity”, Spencer said.
Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Jim Ryan, who is reportedly seeking access to future Call of Duty games on equal terms and in perpetuity, responded by calling Microsoft’s proposal for keeping the series on PlayStation consoles “inadequate on many levels”.
The current Call of Duty deal between Sony and Activision is believed to cover this year’s Modern Warfare 2 and Warzone 2, and a new game from Black Ops developer Treyarch, which may not arrive until 2024.