Microsoft insists videogame merger won’t hurt competition
BRUSSELS, Belgium -Microsoft insisted Tuesday its planned $69-billion takeover of videogame giant Activision Blizzard would be good for consumers, dismissing concerns it would harm competition, after EU regulators held an anti-trust hearing.
Xbox-owner Microsoft launched a bid early last year to create the world’s third biggest gaming company by revenue by purchasing the owner of hit games “Candy Crush” and “Call Of Duty”, but the agreement has been plagued by antitrust concerns.
The latest major hurdle came from British regulators in their provisional findings earlier this month in which they said the deal could significantly harm competition and consumer choice.
Microsoft executive Brad Smith said he hoped regulators including the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority see the deal as an “opportunity to bring this game to 150 million new people, that will be good for consumers”.
Smith was in Brussels with several Microsoft officials for a closed-door hearing to persuade EU anti-trust regulators to approve the Activision Blizzard deal.
He would not give details on how the hearing went.
He rejected any calls for Microsoft to sell hit games like “Call Of Duty” in exchange for approval, saying that would not be “feasible or realistic”.
Smith said, however, he was “more optimistic about the prospects for getting this deal done tonight than I was 24 hours ago, not because of what happened in the hearing room, but because of these two deals”.
He was referring to agreements with Nvidia, which would allow the cloud gaming service access to Xbox PC games for 10 years, and rival Nintendo.
The agreement with Nintendo would see Microsoft commit to allow its popular “Call of Duty” game to be played by fans of the rival console-maker.
“We are bringing Call Of Duty to 150 million more people, to 150 million devices that don’t have access to Call Of Duty,” he said.
Sony, Microsoft’s bigger rival, strongly opposes the deal, but Smith said Microsoft was ready to agree on a way forward to appease any Sony concerns.
“I’m ready to sign,” he said, waiving a document, though he swiftly added he would be ready to sit down with Sony for “dialogue” to hash out an agreement.
The European Commission said it does not comment on closed door hearings, adding: “The probe is still ongoing.”
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