UK removes final hurdle to Microsoft’s blockbuster Activision Blizzard deal

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UK antitrust officials have approved Microsoft’s planned takeover of Activision Blizzard, the maker of “Call of Duty” and other hit games, greenlighting one of the biggest tech deals of all time.

The Competition and Markets Authority announced Friday that the merger had been cleared after the companies agreed to give up certain cloud gaming rights, removing the final regulatory hurdle to the deal closing.

The concession is “a game-changer” that will allow “competitive prices and better services,” the CMA said in a statement.

Microsoft (MSFT) unveiled the deal in early 2022, but it was blocked in April by the UK competition regulator.

The CMA was the only regulator worldwide standing in the way of the landmark acquisition, which was valued at $69 billion when it was first announced. The deal is expected to close in the next few days.

The UK regulator had concerns about competition in the cloud gaming market, saying Microsoft could seek to make Activision’s games exclusive to its own platforms, and then increase the cost of user subscriptions, leaving gamers with less choice.

In August, Microsoft and Activision (ATVI) addressed those concerns by revising the deal.

They proposed a restructured merger, which would allow Activision’s cloud streaming rights outside the European Union and three other European countries to be sold to a rival, Ubisoft Entertainment.

That appeased the CMA, which signaled last month that it would most likely approve the reworked takeover.

“The new deal will stop Microsoft from locking up competition in cloud gaming,” the agency said Friday.

“It will also help to ensure that cloud gaming providers will be able to use non-Windows operating systems for Activision content, reducing costs and increasing efficiency.”

Activision Blizzard is one of the world’s biggest video game developers. Alongside “Call of Duty,” it also produces “World of Warcraft” and “Overwatch.”

Microsoft, which sells the Xbox gaming console, offers a popular video game subscription service called Xbox Game Pass, as well as a cloud-based video game streaming service.

The acquisition is expected to help Microsoft boost its standing in the gaming industry and better compete with market leaders Tencent and Sony.

In a statement on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, Microsoft President Brad Smith said “we’re grateful for the CMA’s thorough review and decision.”

“We have now crossed the final regulatory hurdle to close this acquisition,” he added.

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