Microsoft’s takeover of Activision has been given the final go-ahead by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority.
Earlier this year the regulator blocked a tie-up between the two companies after concluding it would reduce innovation and mean less choice for gamers in the nascent cloud gaming sector.
Following some initial loud complaints from members of its executive team, Microsoft eventually put forward a revised deal under which the cloud gaming rights to all existing Activision games and any new titles released by the firm during the next 15 years sold to rival games publisher Ubisoft.
Ubisoft would be free to supply Activision’s titles to any cloud gaming service provider, including Microsoft, under any terms or business model it wishes. It could also force Microsoft to provide versions of games on operating systems other than Windows.
Last month the CMA said the terms of the revised deal “substantially address” its original concerns, adding that some “limited residual” issues with the new deal had been addressed by further tweaks including undertakings that Ubisoft will be unable to offer Microsoft exclusive access to any Activision titles.
Today the regulator confirmed that the various changes and revisions were enough to allow the deal to proceed.
The CMA was the only regulator to block the original deal – the European Commission approved the tie-up after securing some limited concessions and the US regulators failed in their attempt to block it.
The EC’s deal with Microsoft means the wider concessions Microsoft subsequently gave to the CMA won’t apply within the single market.
CMA Chief Executive Sarah Cardell said: “The CMA is resolute in its determination to prevent mergers that harm competition and deliver bad outcomes for consumers and businesses. We take our decisions free from political influence and we won’t be swayed by corporate lobbying.
“We delivered a clear message to Microsoft that the deal would be blocked unless they comprehensively addressed our concerns and stuck to our guns on that.
“With the sale of Activision’s cloud streaming rights to Ubisoft, we’ve made sure Microsoft can’t have a stranglehold over this important and rapidly developing market.”
“As cloud gaming grows, this intervention will ensure people get more competitive prices, better services and more choice. We are the only competition agency globally to have delivered this outcome.”
“But businesses and their advisors should be in no doubt that the tactics employed by Microsoft are no way to engage with the CMA. Microsoft had the chance to restructure during our initial investigation but instead continued to insist on a package of measures that we told them simply wouldn’t work. Dragging out proceedings in this way only wastes time and money.”