The politics and PR surrounding Microsoft Corp.’s $69 billion bid for video-game developer Activision Blizzard Inc. are becoming increasingly delicate for the UK’s antitrust regulator. The Competition & Markets Authority took a strident lead among global watchdogs in challenging the deal last year. Now it’s backtracking.
In March, the CMA significantly revised its provisional findings against the transaction published in February. It no longer reckons Microsoft would have a commercial incentive to withhold Activision games — principally Call of Duty, the violent “first-person shooter” franchise — from rival Sony Group Corp.’s PlayStation console. The risk was that gamers would be deprived of choice and forced to switch to Microsoft’s Xbox platform. Far from being a profitable strategy, this would be clearly loss-making in the regulator’s new analysis.