FTC fails to stop Microsoft’s Activision deal in antitrust battle

Microsoft secures a significant win as a federal judge rejects attempts to halt its proposed $69 billion acquisition of video game giant Activision Blizzard.

In her ruling, U.S. District Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley stated that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), responsible for enforcing antitrust laws, has not presented sufficient evidence to demonstrate a probable success if the case were to proceed to trial.

“The FTC has not raised serious questions regarding whether the proposed merger is likely to substantially lessen competition in the console, library subscription services, or cloud gaming markets,” Corley wrote.

During a five-day court hearing held in San Francisco last month, Microsoft emerged as the frontrunner. The proceedings featured testimonies from Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, and long-standing CEO of Activision Blizzard, Bobby Kotick.

Both executives made commitments to ensure the continued availability of Activision’s highly popular game, Call of Duty, for console players, specifically on Sony’s PlayStation, which competes with Microsoft’s Xbox.

The FTC had asked Corley to issue an injunction temporarily blocking Microsoft and Activision from closing the deal before the FTC’s in-house judge can review it in an August trial.

Both companies suggested that such a delay would effectively force them to abandon the takeover agreement they signed nearly 18 months ago. Microsoft has promised to pay Activision a $3 billion breakup fee if the deal doesn’t close by July 18.

As the hearing neared its conclusion, Judge Corley highlighted that the FTC had secured a win for consumers based on the commitments Microsoft had made to certain competitors. These pledges were aimed at addressing concerns and facilitating the successful completion of the Activision Blizzard deal.

Amid increasing antitrust investigations and legal disputes globally, Microsoft made a commitment to ensure the availability of Call of Duty on various platforms, including Nintendo’s Switch console, Nvidia’s cloud gaming service, and other platforms, for a minimum duration of ten years.

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