Following the EU's approval last week, China's State Administration for Market Regulation has given its blessing to the proposed union between Microsoft and Activision Blizzard. The decision was reported by Seeking Alpha late last week, and confirmed by Activision Blizzard today in a statement sent to PC Gamer.
"We're glad to see China join dozens of other major countries in welcoming more competition in the gaming industry," wrote an Activision Blizzard spokesperson. "SAMR has unconditionally approved our merger with Microsoft, using facts and data to reach the correct conclusion. We are committed to the Chinese market, with many of our amazing players and employees based there, and we look forward to bringing them new choices and benefits as part of this deal."
Last month, the UK's Competition and Markets Authority opted to block the acquisition over concern that aquiring Activision Blizzard would give Microsoft too much power in the emerging cloud gaming market. The surprise decision is being appealed, but Microsoft may have a hard time overturning it while keeping its current deal intact. Approval from the EU and China doesn't hurt, but along with the UK roadblock, it's still got the US Federal Trade Commission to deal with.
In December last year, the FTC announced that it would seek to block the acquisition. If the UK had approved the deal, the FTC was expected to drop its complaint, but that didn't happen and a hearing is scheduled for August 2, during which the FTC and Microsoft will present evidence for their cases.
Activision Blizzard hasn't had a great year when it comes to business in China: It broke up with its Chinese publishing partner, NetEase, and so World of Warcraft and its other games have been offline in the country since January. According to one report, the whole thing might have come down to a misunderstanding related to this very regulatory decision. (The gist is that Activision Blizzard reportedly interpreted a comment from NetEase as a threat to influence Chinese regulators if it didn't get the deal it wanted, and NetEase says that's not what it meant.)
At last check, Blizzard was looking for a new publishing partner to work with in China, but now that Chinese regulatory approval for the Microsoft acquisition is a done deal, maybe it'd be easier to just give NetEase an apology ring? (Although, considering that NetEase smashed up its World of Warcraft statue after the breakup, maybe that's a firmly shut door.)
I've asked Activision Blizzard if there's any update on its efforts to get its games back online in China.