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The EU are slapping Microsoft with an antitrust warning over their Activision-Blizzard buyout

Can't let the Americans have all the fun

The US Federal Trade Commision has already committed to blocking Microsoft's $69 billion Activision-Blizzard buyout, so now it's the EU's turn to kick up a fuss. The EU's antitrust watchdog is nearing the end of a 90-day probe into whether Microsoft's buyout violates antitrust laws, and they're reportedly about to serve up a charge sheet that lays out all their beef. As with those of the FTC and other regulators, their objections are likely to centre on the likelihood of Microsoft saddling Call Of Duty with Xbox or Gamepass exclusivity.

The news comes from Reuters, who say their sources confirm that the EU is "readying a charge sheet known as a statement of objections, setting out its concerns about the deal which will be sent to Microsoft in the coming weeks". They've set a deadline for April 12th on whether they'll OK the deal.

According to those sources, there are "ongoing informal discussions on concessions" between Microsoft and the EU, though they'll only be formally open to negotiations once they've sent over that charge sheet. Microsoft say they're "continuing to work with the European Commission to address any marketplace concerns", and repeat their line about how their goal is merely "to bring more games to more people".

Microsoft's real goal is to make pots of money, and exclusivity is a route they've chosen before. As the FTC have pointed out, when Microsoft bought ZeniMax they offered assurances that their games wouldn't be withheld from rival consoles - but Starfield and Redfall are now planned to be Xbox (and PC) exclusives.

The UK's Competition and Markets Authority is currently in the middle of their own investigation, and are due to publish their findings on April 26th.

Microsoft have already signed a 10-year deal to put CoD on Nintendo platforms if the deal goes ahead, and say they're open to do the same with Sony. I still don't understand how a mere ten-year commitment can be regarded as significant, given that someone will probably still be making a CoD game in the year 2390493.

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Matt Cox

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