EU regulators question rivals over Microsoft’s tactics after possible deal with Activision

EU antitrust regulators have asked game developers and distributors whether they think Microsoft will block their access to Activision Blizzard’s games once it buys the company, an EU document seen by Reuters shows.

The US software giant and Xbox maker announced the $69 billion (nearly €65 billion) deal in January to help it better compete with leaders Tencent and Sony, but it has run into regulatory hurdles in the European Union, Great Britain and the United States.

Lawsuit from 10 players sought to block its merger with Call of Duty maker Activision Blizzard. The lawsuit filed in US federal court says the deal “will create a monopoly in the video game industry.”

The European Commission sent out a 91-page questionnaire earlier this month, with recipients that could be game companies, including console suppliers, game publishers, developers and distributors, and PC operating system suppliers, one person said. who are familiar with the matter.

“Please specify what partial exclusivity strategy or strategies you believe Microsoft would be able to implement with respect to Activision Blizzard’s console games following Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard,” the questionnaire asked.

The EU’s antitrust watchdog asked whether such strategies would include degrading the quality or interoperability of Activision’s games available on competing consoles or providing updates to Activision’s games only on Xbox.

Other options were to raise the wholesale price of Activision’s games for distribution on competing consoles and make them available on competing consoles at a later date.

The companies were also asked if Microsoft would make some of Activision’s game content and features available exclusively on Xbox but not on competing consoles.

The document also included a question about Activision’s Call of Duty, asking which video game franchise is considered the most important for a console game distributor to offer, and what other major alternatives there are to Call of Duty.

Regulators asked what advantages and disadvantages game developers, publishers and distributors of console games would face if a game were distributed exclusively on a console.

They also wanted to know the impact on competition between cloud game streaming services if Activision’s combined portfolio were to become available as part of that service.

Rival PC operating system vendors were asked whether Microsoft had the technical ability to prevent the compatibility of Activision’s games with operating systems other than Windows.

Microsoft said it was continuing to work with the Commission to address any valid market issues.

“Sony, as an industry leader, says they are concerned about Call of Duty, but we have said that we are committed to making the same game available on the same day on both Xbox and PlayStation. We want people to have more access to games , no less,” a Microsoft spokesperson said.

The Commission, which has set a deadline of just before Christmas for replies, declined to comment.

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