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EU quizzes game devs on Microsoft-Activision deal

The EU’s antitrust regulators have sent a questionnaire to game developers inquiring whether Microsoft’s planned acquisition of Activision Blizzard would be incentivised to block rivals’ access to titles such as Call of Duty and Overwatch.

The US$69 billion deal was announced in January 2022, and would represent the largest-ever acquisition made by Microsoft and the videogame industry’s biggest deal to date. 

According to an EU document seen by Reuters, the watchdog is surveying developers, publishers and distributors on whether the tie-up would impact their bargaining power for selling console and PC games via Xbox and its Game Pass subscription service. 

The questionnaire also asks whether there would be sufficient alternative suppliers in the market should Microsoft renege on its pledge to offer Activision games on a non-exclusive basis. They were asked, in this event, whether it would reinforce the position of Microsoft’s Windows operating system, and more broadly how important the Call of Duty franchise is for distributors of console games, third-party multi-game subscription services on computers and providers of cloud game streaming services.

A major reported topic of the survey was also if Activision’s large user database would give Microsoft a competitive advantage in the development, publishing and distribution of computer and console games.

The questionnaire is expected to serve as a prelude to a four-month long investigation into the acquisition.

The news comes weeks after the UK’s Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) raised concerns over the merger and said that it could “harm rivals” following an inquiry that was launched in July.

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