The US Federal Trade Commission have moved to block Microsoft's $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard. After months of review, during which Microsoft argued that the merger was fine because Activision Blizzard's games aren't that great really, the FTC have filed a complaint which argues that the acquisition "would enable Microsoft to suppress competitors to its Xbox gaming consoles and its rapidly growing subscription content and cloud-gaming business."
In a statement released this evening, the FTC say their panel voted 3-1 in favour of filing the complaint against the acquisition.
"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 in the statement. "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 gaming markets."
Microsoft have been on a spending spree over the past several years, buying studios including Obsidian, Double Fine, Ninja Theory and, most notably, ZeniMax. The FTC statement points out that Microsoft had previously offered assurances that ZeniMax's games would not be withheld from rival consoles, but that Starfield and Redfall are now planned to be Xbox (and PC) exclusives.
In a statement to The Verge, Microsoft vice chair and president Brad Smith said, "We continue to believe that this deal will expand competition and create more opportunities for gamers and game developers. We have been committed since Day One to addressing competition concerns, including by offering earlier this week proposed concessions to the FTC. While we believed in giving peace a chance, we have complete confidence in our case and welcome the opportunity to present our case in court."
The US FTC aren't the only agency investigating the proposed acquisition. The UK competition authority are aiming to make a decision of their own in March next year, while EU regulators continue to scrutinise the deal. An Activision Blizzard spokesperson said last month that they too “won’t hesitate to fight” any challenge to the buyout.