A CMA investigation has tentatively concluded that Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of Activision could lead to higher prices and less choice or innovation for UK gamers.
Competition and Markets Authority of the provisional findings follow an extensive investigation over the past five months to understand the market and the deal’s potential impact. To understand their views on the market, we conducted site visits and hearings with Microsoft and Activision business leaders, analyzed over 3 million internal documents from the two companies, commissioned an independent survey of UK gamers, and gathered evidence from an array of other console providers, game publishers, and cloud gaming service providers.
Competition in Providing Cloud Gaming Services
The CMA provisionally found that offering popular games will be necessary for cloud gaming providers to attract users as the market grows and develops. According to the CMA’s evidence, Microsoft would benefit from making Activision’s games exclusive to its cloud gaming service (or, in materially unfavourable circumstances, to other services only). Microsoft accounts for 60-70% of global cloud gaming services. In addition, Xbox has significant strength in cloud gaming from owning a global cloud computing infrastructure (Azure and Xbox Cloud Gaming) and the leading PC operating system (Windows).
The CMA provisionally found that Microsoft would substantially reduce the competition it would otherwise face in the UK cloud gaming market among the world’s most crucial game publishers and that buying one would strengthen this vital position. This could change the future of gaming, potentially harming UK gamers, particularly those who cannot or do not want to buy expensive gaming consoles or gaming PCs.
Competition in the supply of consoles
CMA tentatively finds out that Call of Duty (CoD), Activision’s flagship game, is among the most crucial game consoles driving clicks for corporations. Based on the evidence provided to the CMA, including data on how Microsoft measures consumer value, it appears Microsoft would be commercially motivated to make Activision’s games available only on its consoles (or, in materially worse cases, on PlayStation), according to the Provisional Search Notes because Microsoft used this strategy of buying gaming studios and made their content exclusive to Microsoft’s platform after several previous acquisitions of game studios.
The CMA provisionally found that restricting other platforms’ access to Activision’s games could significantly reduce competition between Xbox and PlayStation in the UK, harming UK gamers.
Xbox and PlayStation compete closely, and access to the most critical content, such as CoD, is integral to that competition. As a result of this diminishing competition between Microsoft and Sony, all gamers may see higher prices, reduced range, lower quality and poor service for gaming consoles over time.
Martin Coleman, chairman of the independent panel of experts conducting the phase 2 investigation, said:
It is estimated that there are around 45 million gamers in the UK and that people in the UK spend more on gaming than on any other form of entertainment, including music, film, TV and books. Xbox and PlayStation have dominated the console gaming market for almost two decades, but exciting new developments in cloud gaming are giving gamers even more options.
Our job is to ensure UK gamers don’t get caught in the crossfire of global deals that could harm competition over time and result in higher prices, less choice or less innovation. We have tentatively found that here it can be.
We have today sent the companies an explanation of how our concerns could be addressed, inviting their views and alternative proposals they wish to submit.
Background to today’s tentative findings
Microsoft entered a $68.7 billion deal in January 2022 to buy Activision, one of the world’s most popular video game publishers. This is Microsoft’s most significant and prominent video game acquisition in history.
Gaming is the most effective form of entertainment in the UK, with consumers spending more money on gaming than on pay TV, video streaming, movies, music or books. In 2022, around £5 billion is expected to be spent on gaming in the UK. While consoles and PCs have thousands of games, players spend most of their time and money on a few AAA titles. Game publisher Activision owns CoD, considered one of the top AAA titles in the industry.
In September 2022, the CMA launched an in-depth inquiry into the deal led by an independent panel of experts. The study is being conducted alongside similar probes in the US, the EU, and several other international jurisdictions.
The CMA welcomes interested parties’ responses to its provisional findings by 1 March 2023 and notifications of potential remedies, which set out possible options to address its temporary concerns by 22 February 2023. These will be considered before the CMA issues its final report, due by 26 April 2023.
Note for Editors
- You can reach the CMA Press Office at email@example.com or 020 3738 6460.
- Microsoft generated a worldwide turnover of around £125 billion in the past year thanks to its wide range of products and services. A variety of Xbox gaming consoles have been sold since 2001. You can download Digital copies of games from the Xbox Store to the Xbox. In addition to Xbox Game Pass, Microsoft also offers a subscription service that provides access to a library of fun games for a monthly fee.
- Activision Blizzard is a games developer and publisher with a global turnover of £6.3bn last year. It produces popular gaming content for consoles, PCs and mobiles, including titles like Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and Candy Crush.
- Via CMA, a market research firm, the study surveyed a random sample of 40,000 PlayStation CoD gamers—those who played at least 10 hours or spent at least $100 between July 2021 and June 2022—to find out how important the game franchise is to them and After merging it refers to what they can do when it becomes partial or exclusive to Xbox.