This week brought something of a bombshell for Microsoft: The UK's Competition and Markets Authority delivered its verdict on the company's proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard, and it was a big fat no. Furious executives immediately took to the air to decry the regulator, with Microsoft president Brad Smith going so far as to say the UK government should consider the CMS's future role, adding this was Microsoft's 'darkest day' in four decades in Britain.
This is going to rumble on for some time, because there will be an appeal against the CMA's decision and, frankly, Microsoft has all the money in the world to throw at solving this problem. One tactic it's been following since the regulators began sniffing around is giving out ten-year deals to various cloud gaming services (Microsoft's potential dominance in cloud gaming is an area of concern for almost all of them), in some cases specifically concerning the Call of Duty series.
Today Brad Smith, having calmed down a little after his exertions, announced the latest partnership on social media. The deal brings Xbox's PC games to the European-based Nware streaming service, "as well as Activision Blizzard titles after the acquisition closes."
Well, Brad, that remains to be seen doesn't it. These deals were direct overtures to the regulators, with Microsoft also partnering up with other cloud platforms large and small in an attempt to show how benevolent and giving it can be: Other partners include Nvidia GeForce, EE, Boosteroid, and Ubitus.
Microsoft and European cloud gaming platform Nware have signed a 10-year agreement. Our statement here: pic.twitter.com/GWoSBg63P6April 28, 2023
The exact format that the appeals process will take is not yet clear, though it is worth noting that the CMA tends to win most appeals against its decisions and, should Microsoft be successful, all this will do is restart the same regulatory process (and probably with the same CMA team). But with the CMA's full report now published, there's no doubt a team of Microsoft lawyers ripping it to shreds as I type.
One piece of bright news for Microsoft this week is that Ukraine's regulator has approved the deal, joining Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Serbia, Chile, Japan and South Africa. The big three hurdles for Microsoft, however, will be the EU, UK and US. The EU is yet to deliver its verdict, we know what the UK's CMA thinks, and the US Federal Trade Commission has begun a legal challenge to the takeover. Exciting times.