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What’s New With the Activision Purchase?

Nine months ago Microsoft announced it was purchasing Activision. Here we are, in September, and things seem hardly any closer. There’s plenty of drama, and not much else it seems. So just what’s happening with this acquisition, and are we any closer to understanding what it means?

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There’s no doubt about it that plenty of work will be going on behind the scenes, and we’re getting the occasional snippet of that work too.

But now the acquisition has hit a snag. Regulators here in England will be taking a closer look at the deal before deciding whether to approve or not. And while that doesn’t really have any bearing on the likelihood of it getting passed – that decision comes later – it does mean that it’ll be 2023 by the time the deal is closed.

That’s bad news for those that thought the ramping up of approvals and conversations might mean it sneaks in before Christmas (or, even unlikelier, before Modern Warfare 2).

But that doesn’t mean you’ll have ages more to wait. The deal has to be completed (or dropped) before the end of the financial year, and this investigation in the UK might be closed as soon as January.

Behind the Scenes

We’ve already seen Sony gunning for this deal, and understandably so. Call of Duty is huge on PlayStation. Losing it would be a nightmare for executives.

But that’s not enough to sway the deal. Sony are still in first place the world over. Losing Call of Duty would make the industry more competitive, not less.

And that’s presuming Call of Duty leaves PlayStation. Microsoft are adamant it won’t. At least, not anytime soon.

The CMA, the UK’s marketing authority, is more worried about the impact that the Activision deal might have on the future of cloud gaming and subscription services. The argument is that Game Pass is already very successful – Sony said it has 60-70 percent of the global subscription market – and labeling Xbox Cloud Gaming as the only place to play Call of Duty (and Bethesda games, and Activision games…) would potentially make it impossible for other players in the cloud arena.

It is hard to argue with any of that. Microsoft aren’t in the best position in the market, but they’re undoubtedly in the best position for the future of the market. And Sony just cannot compete with that. Who can? Google, Amazon and Apple. And as of yet, they’ve not really begun to compete. That’s even with Amazon’s… false start.

Will any of this impact on the purchase? It seems unlikely it gets thrown away. Overwatch and Diablo 4 haven’t been shown at Xbox events for no reason.

But there’s a chance regulators make Microsoft concede to certain things. That might potentially be keeping Call of Duty on PlayStation (or stopping it on Game Pass, or making it available to other streaming or subscription services).

What Happens Next with the Activision deal?

Although things seem to be flowing nicely, it may be that things continue to ramp up over the next couple of months now. There are still worldwide regulatory bodies that need to approve the deal. We won’t know when they’re all approved (some don’t publicly announce their decisions). But some do, and there are likely to be new elements to the conversation every time it happens.

You can also expect a few more spats between Jim Ryan of Sony and Phil Spencer of Xbox. Apparently public opinion is going to be important going forward, although it probably shouldn’t be. And that means statements, rebuttals and maybe a bit of bad blood. It’s an odd situation, and could be fascinating to watch from the outside.

 

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blank Mat Growcott has been a long-time member of the gaming press. He's written two books and a web series, and doesn't have nearly enough time to play the games he writes about.

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