When the huge deal between Microsoft and Activision Blizzard was announced last week, it was noted that the deal would be pending approval and wouldn’t expect it to be finalized for at least another year. Now, according to Bloomberg, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC ) may be the agency overseeing the question of whether the deal will harm competition or if changes will have to be made.
The report says that the FTC and the Justice Department share responsibility for doing antitrust reviews of huge mergers but sometimes just one may investigate a particular deal. Concern rises because the FTC chair Lina Khan has been an advocate of taking a hard line approach to reviewing deals for technology companies or companies that might use dominance in one area of business to gain extra power in other markets and grow over there in a way that harms competition.
Since this deal is huge and globally important, the deal will also undergo scrutiny in Europe and it will remain to see what parts of the deal survive the plans. The investigation in this deal should cover many areas of the business and what the combined company could look like after. Significant questions that should be expected to arise are whether or not Microsoft’s acquisition of such a huge global company like Activision Blizzard would create such unfair competition that it would harm their rivals by limiting access to products and exclusives. It could come down to whether Microsoft being in the console business with hardware, in addition to owning several of their own major IPs and companies, could absorb everything in the Activision Blizzard portfolio without doing significant harm to other companies (and the consumer market).
Whether we might see more timed exclusives, special licensing deals, or other ways of sorting out these details, we don’t know yet. Yet the choice of the FTC behind the investigation might signal a tough review.