Microsoft’s new offer to buy Call of Duty publisher, Activision Blizzard is set to be cleared by the UK’s competition watchdog.
The Competition Markets Authority (CMA) had previously blocked the deal over fears it would harm cloud gaming.
However, today the CMA said a revised offer for addressed its earlier concerns.
This “restructured transaction” means Microsoft will not purchase the cloud gaming rights held by Activision, they will instead be sold to an independent third party – Ubisoft Entertainment SA, prior to the competition of the deal.
It means Microsoft would not control cloud gaming rights for Activision content, so couldn’t limit access for rival firms.
Activision has a studio in Warrington, while one of Ubisoft’s 4 UK studios is in Newcastle.
“This is a new and substantially different deal, which keeps the cloud distribution of these important games in the hands of a strong independent supplier, Ubisoft, rather than under the control of Microsoft,” explained Colin Raftery, Senior Director of Mergers and Phase 1 decision maker.
“With additional protections to make sure that the deal is properly implemented, this will maintain the structure of the market, enabling open competition to continue to shape the development of cloud gaming in the years to come, and giving UK gamers the opportunity to access Activision’s games in many different ways, including through cloud-based multigame subscription services.”
The deal with Ubisoft also requires Microsoft to port Activision games to operating systems other than Windows and support game emulators when requested.
“The CMA’s position has been consistent throughout – this merger could only go ahead if competition, innovation, and choice in cloud gaming was preserved. In response to our original prohibition, Microsoft has now substantially restructured the deal, taking the necessary steps to address our original concerns,” added Sarah Cardell, CEO of the CMA.
“It would have been far better, though, if Microsoft had put forward this restructure during our original investigation. This case illustrates the costs, uncertainty and delay that parties can incur if a credible and effective remedy option exists but is not put on the table at the right time.”
The CMA said it was now “consulting on the remedies” before making a final decision.