Microsoft soon “likely to make EU concessions” in Activision Blizzard deal

Microsoft is reportedly readying to make a number of formal concessions to EU regulators investigating its proposed $69bn acquisition of Activision Blizzard, including the guarantee Call of Duty will be availalble on PlayStation for the next ten years.

Call of Duty has remained a focal point during government scrutiny of Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard deal, with regulators – including those in the UK and Europe – raising fears Microsoft may leverage the juggernaut franchise to gain an unfair advantage over its competition.

Reports in September revealed Microsoft had initially pledged to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation for “at least several more years” beyond Activision’s existing deal – an arrangement PlayStation boss Jim Ryan would go on to call “inadequate on many levels” – but as regulatory scrutiny deepened, Xbox boss Phil Spencer said the company would continue releasing Call of Duty on Sony’s consoles for “as long as there’s a PlayStation out there to ship to”.

More recently, Microsoft told the New York Times it had offered Sony a deal at the start of November to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation for 10 more years, and it seems the company is now ready to make that official as it attempts to assuage regulatory concerns.

The European Commission’s current “in-depth” Phase 2 investigation of Microsoft’s proposed Activision Blizzard deal will see it release a formal list of concerns in January. However, according to Reuters, Microsoft is likely to offer concessions to EU antitrust regulators in the coming weeks – a move which may help shorten the regulatory process. Citing a person “with direct knowledge” of the situation, Reuters says these remedies will “consist mainly” of a 10-year Call of Duty licensing deal to Sony.

However, even if EU regulators accept Microsoft’s remedies, there are still considerable hurdles to clear before the deal is finalised. In total, 16 regulatory bodies around the world have launched investigations into Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard to assess its likely impact on competition, and only Brazil and Saudi Arabia have so far approved the deal.

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is currently holding its own “phase 2” investigation, with a statutory deadline of March next year.