FTC Sues to Block Microsoft’s
Acquisition of Activision Blizzard
December 8, 2022
Agency alleges that maker
of Xbox would gain control of top video game franchises,
enabling it to harm competition in high-performance
gaming consoles and subscription services by denying or
degrading rivals’ access to its popular content
Federal Trade Commission is seeking to block technology
giant Microsoft Corp. from acquiring leading video game
developer Activision Blizzard, Inc. and its blockbuster
gaming franchises such as Call of Duty, alleging that
the $69 billion deal, Microsoft’s largest ever and the
largest ever in the video gaming industry, would enable
Microsoft to suppress competitors to its Xbox gaming
consoles and its rapidly growing subscription content
and cloud-gaming business.
In a complaint issued today, the FTC pointed to
Microsoft’s record of acquiring and using valuable
gaming content to suppress competition from rival
consoles, including its acquisition of ZeniMax, parent
company of Bethesda Softworks (a well-known game
developer). Microsoft decided to make several of
Bethesda's titles including Starfield and Redfall
Microsoft exclusives despite assurances it had given to
European antitrust authorities that it had no incentive
to withhold games from rival consoles.
“Microsoft has already shown that it can and will
withhold content from its gaming rivals,” said Holly
Vedova, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition.
“Today we seek to stop Microsoft from gaining control
over a leading independent game studio and using it to
harm competition in multiple dynamic and fast-growing
Microsoft’s Xbox Series S and Series X are one of only
two types of high performance video game consoles.
Importantly, Microsoft also offers a leading video game
content subscription service called Xbox Game Pass, as
well as a cutting-edge cloud-based video game streaming
service, according to the complaint.
is one of only a very small number of top video game
developers in the world that create and publish
high-quality video games for multiple devices, including
video game consoles, PCs, and mobile devices. It
produces some of the most iconic and popular video game
titles, including Call of Duty, World of Warcraft,
Diablo, and Overwatch, and has millions of monthly
active users around the world, according to the FTC’s
complaint. Activision currently has a strategy of
offering its games on many devices regardless of
But that could change if the deal is allowed to proceed.
With control over Activision’s blockbuster franchises,
Microsoft would have both the means and motive to harm
competition by manipulating Activision’s pricing,
degrading Activision’s game quality or player experience
on rival consoles and gaming services, changing the
terms and timing of access to Activision’s content, or
withholding content from competitors entirely, resulting
in harm to consumers.
The Commission vote to issue the complaint was 3-1, with
Commissioner Christine S. Wilson voting no. A copy of
the administrative complaint will be available shortly.