Call of Duty
Image: Activision Blizzard

Update #3 [Sun 16th Jul, 2023 16:30 BST]: Microsoft gaming head Phil Spencer today confirmed a binding agreement with Sony has been made to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation following the acquisition of Activision Blizzard. This is a 10-year deal, as confirmed by Stephen Totilo of Axios.

"We are pleased to announce that Microsoft and @PlayStation have signed a binding agreement to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation following the acquisition of Activision Blizzard. We look forward to a future where players globally have more choice to play their favorite games."

Microsoft vice chair and president Brad Smith also mentioned how the acquisition was getting closer to the finish line:

"From Day One of this acquisition, we’ve been committed to addressing the concerns of regulators, platform and game developers, and consumers. Even after we cross the finish line for this deal’s approval, we will remain focused on ensuring that Call of Duty remains available on more platforms and for more consumers than ever before."

Microsoft previously agreed to bring Call of Duty to Nintendo platforms for the next 10 years, signing a binding agreement:

Update #2 [Sat 15th Jul, 2023 04:30 BST]: The Federal Trade Commission in the US has officially lost its appeal and has now also been denied injunctive relief. It means Microsoft is now able to close its acquisition of Activision Blizzard in this part of the world. It needs to do this by 18th July and is expected to complete the deal very soon. It also means Microsoft's plan to bring Call of Duty to Nintendo platforms is back on track.

Here's what Microsoft vice chair and president Brad Smith had to say about this in a statement:

"We appreciate the Ninth Circuit's swift response denying the FTC's motion to further delay the Activision deal. This brings us another step closer to the finish line in this marathon of global regulatory reviews."

Microsoft is still dealing with UK's Competition and Markets Authority, with the CMA pushing its own deadline back from 18th July to 29th August. Fortunately for the tech giant, it seems like the two parties will be able to find a resolution.

Update #1 [Thu 13th Jul, 2023 10:00 BST]: If you thought that the conflict surrounding Microsoft's acquisition of Activision Blizzard was all over, think again. Earlier this week, a California judge ruled in favour of Microsoft and denied the Federal Trade Commission's request for a preliminary injunction against the deal. The FTC has now filed an appeal against that decision.

The news was shared by The Verge's senior editor @tomwarren, who noted that the regulator's argument behind the appeal has not been shared yet and will likely remain that way until it is submitted to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals — which may then be able to issue "an emergency stay to extend the existing temporary restraining order", currently set to expire on 14th July.

Microsoft president Brad Smith took to Twitter to issue a statement on the appeal, noting the company's disappointment that "the FTC is continuing to pursue what has become a demonstrably weak case":

Of course, there is no guarantee that the appeal will be passed before the deal deadline of 18th July, meaning that Microsoft may still be able to complete the acquisition in the early part of next week. Just last night, Nasdaq announced that Activision-Blizzard would be removed from the Nasdaq-100 ESG Index before market open on 17th July, signalling that the company would cease to be its own entity. It seems that Microsoft's preparations are well underway.

This may put more pressure on Microsoft to reach an agreement with the UK's Competition and Markets Authority, which still stands in defiance of the deal.

Original article [Tue 11th Jul, 2023 17:35 BST]: After five days of providing evidence, a California judge has today denied the Federal Trade Commission's request for a preliminary injunction against Microsoft's acquisition of Activision Blizzard. In short, the deal can now go ahead in the US.

We're not across the finish line just yet — the deal is still blocked in the UK, remember — but today's result means that Microsoft can get the ball rolling on the takeover in the US and start to make good on the legally-binding commitment to bring Call of Duty to Nintendo consoles.

The court filed a 53-page document earlier today, in which Judge Corley sided with all claims made by Microsoft, including "an agreement with Nintendo to bring Call of Duty to Switch". Part of this conclusion can be found below:

Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision has been described as the largest in tech history. It deserves scrutiny. That scrutiny has paid off: Microsoft has committed in writing, in public, and in court to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation for 10 years on parity with Xbox. It made an agreement with Nintendo to bring Call of Duty to Switch. And it entered several agreements to for the first time bring Activision’s content to several cloud gaming services.

This Court’s responsibility in this case is narrow. It is to decide if, notwithstanding these current circumstances, the merger should be halted—perhaps even terminated—pending resolution of the FTC administrative action. For the reasons explained, the Court finds the FTC has not shown a likelihood it will prevail on its claim this particular vertical merger in this specific industry may substantially lessen competition. To the contrary, the record evidence points to more consumer access to Call of Duty and other Activision content. The motion for a preliminary injunction is therefore DENIED.

Following the ruling, Microsoft president Brad Smith published a statement on Twitter, expressing the company's gratitude to the court:

The result of the court hearing means that Microsoft now has until the deadline of 18th July to close the deal with Activision, however, the deal is still blocked in the UK and will remain that way until Microsoft is able to appeal the Competition and Markets Authority's decision on 28th July.

Either, the deal will be closed around the UK or the CMA needs to be willing to negotiate now that both the US and the EU have approved the deal. We wouldn't be surprised to see the 18th July deadline get an extension so that the CMA hearing can take place first.

Smith took to Twitter once again to provide a different statement on the topic of the CMA. He noted that Microsoft still disagrees with the CMA's stance, though the company is currently "considering how the transaction might be modified in order to address those concerns":

It isn't a done deal just yet, then, but it certainly seems that things are shifting in Microsoft's favour.

Do you think that the CMA will budge now that the FTC's request has been denied? Can the debate really go on for much longer? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

[source, via]