As Microsoft tries to buy Activision, the lawyers are arguing about Starfield
As the Activision-Blizzard acquisition looms, the FTC cites Starfield as evidence against Microsoft.
Microsoft has been in the process of acquiring games developer Activision-Blizzard since early 2022, and now faces a new challenge from the Federal Trade Commission – the American agency tasked with regulating competition within the markets. The FTC has filed against the acquisition, and specifically names Starfield’s Xbox-exclusivity as a potential reason to block Microsoft’s purchase.
Should Microsoft succeed in purchasing Activision-Blizzard, it has the potential to reshape the landscape of videogames. Activision, after all, is responsible for the behemoth that is Call of Duty. Blizzard, meanwhile, is behind titles such as Diablo 4, World of Warcraft, and Overwatch 2. As a result, various national and international regulators are scrutinizing the deal to prevent competition concerns in the games market.
In an effort to reassure the FTC that there are no competition concerns, Microsoft has stated that Call of Duty will remain multiformat.
However, the latest FTC filing argues that Microsoft has strong incentives to make the games it acquires Xbox-exclusive, and the effect of this action could be to harm competition in the games market. The FTC cites Microsoft’s decision to make Starfield “powerful evidence” of its incentive to keep games on Microsoft platforms.
Microsoft acquired Starfield developer Bethesda Games Studio and its parent company, ZeniMax, back in 2020. The FTC’s filing even states that one ZeniMax executive apologized to fans for Microsoft’s decision to make Starfield “exclusive to the Xbox ecosystem, but the decision stands.”
It goes to show just how big Starfield is for it to be cited as evidence against a $68.7 billion acquisition. Starfield is bound to be one of, if not the, biggest games of the year, and the FTC may agree.
What does the FTC’s findings ultimately mean for the Microsoft Activision-Blizzard acquisition? More details will likely become available following the official hearing on June 22, 2023.