With the Microsoft Activision Blizzard acquisition looming, the EU is asking game companies to weigh in on the deal and its overall impact on the industry. According to Reuters, the EU is asking if Activision's accumulated data would give Microsoft an unfair competitive advantage. Considering the size of Activision franchises like Call of Duty, Candy Crush, and World of Warcraft, that's definitely a legitimate query, as the previously independent Activision Blizzard joining up with Microsoft would have massive implications for the gaming industry.
After all, while $69 billion is pocket change for the likes of Microsoft, it definitely isn't for everyone else in the gaming industry. It's much bigger than the $12.7 billion Take-Two Zynga deal, and if this deal is allowed to close, Microsoft's plan is to add as many Activision Blizzard games as they can to their Xbox Game Pass catalogue. Considering the subscription service has 25 million subscribers before any Activision Blizzard titles have made their way there, it stands to reason that the number of subscribers will explode once you can play Diablo IV or the next Call of Duty through Game Pass, for instance.
The EU also wants to know if the deal, if allowed to go through, would affect developers and publishers' bargaining power when it comes to selling games through Xbox or including them on Game Pass, and that goes for both console and PC as well.
If Microsoft were to make the decision of making Activision's games exclusive to its platforms, the EU wants to know if there would be enough competition from other companies in the industry to avoid a competitive disadvantage to anyone who isn't part of Microsoft's empire.
The questionnaire came with 100 questions in total, with one asking how important Call of Duty is for console game distributors and other subscription and cloud gaming services. After all, Call of Duty is a franchise that constitutes 10 out of the top 15 best-selling games of the 2010s, and it still shows few signs of slowing down. Call of Duty may not be the only card Activision Blizzard has up its sleeve, but it's an ace for sure.
Microsoft's Activision Blizzard acquisition is gathering steam. Brazil's Administrative Council for Economic Defense (CADE) approved the deal a few days ago, and the Saudi Arabia General Authority for Competition approved it back in August. Both countries expressed no objections to the deal's terms, and Brazil's board specifically said it doesn't think gamers switching to Xbox for Call of Duty represents a problem for competition. There's already precedent for approving the merger, and while such a mammoth deal is naturally going to move slowly, it looks like it's going in Microsoft's favor right now.
Activision Blizzard has been heavily criticized over allegations of toxic workplace culture and sexual harassment. These criticisms have come from several U.S. state treasurers, the heads of both PlayStation and Xbox, and a group of activist shareholders, among many others. The company is also embroiled in lawsuits, unionization disputes with staff, and conflicts with government agencies.