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The FTC now look likely to approve Microsoft's Activision-Blizzard buyout

Personal power struggles come into play

Microsoft's proposed buyout of Activision-Blizzard is currently being scrutinized by competition regulators in various countries, but despite previous (and existing) objections the American Federal Trade Commision now looks likely to approve the deal. The news comes from the New York Post, who quote former FTC chairman William Kovacic as saying the deal is 70% likely to proceed.

There's a web of politics involved, but the short version is that insider sources say Microsoft have won over another member of the four person FTC panel, meaning any vote on whether to launch a lawsuit would result in an even split that would effectively OK the deal. That would reduce current FTC Chair Lina Khan's authority over the body, so to avoid that she might just let Microsoft have at it.

Right, the long version: of the four FTC commissioners, three are Democrat. The one Republican had already indicated his support for the deal, and now according to the post's sources, "some of the Democrats might be more comfortable with a settlement", arguing for extracting concessions rather than blocking the deal entirely. Sources say Khan had been pushing to block the merger, but rather than face a tied vote she's more likely to approve the deal while claiming any concessions as a victory.

The Post say their DC sources claim last year's Chair, Rebecca Slaughter, is the demurring Democrat, partly on the basis of her work history with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer - who recently met with Microsoft President Brad Smith. “This is when Schumer calls his old protege and says, ‘What’s up?”, according to Kovacic (the former former FTC Chairman, keep up.)

Microsoft also now seem willing to make solid concessions, reportedly agreeing to a 10-year licensing deal with Sony to keep selling Call Of Duty games on Playstation as a result of pressure from EU regulators. Those concessions make it much harder for the FTC to argue against the merger. They're expected to make a decision by mid-December.

It's a pity. As Alice Bee will tell you, further consolidation of the games industry is not a desirable thing.

Activision Blizzard are currently the subject of a number of legal actions, labour disputes and allegations of workplace harassment. Rock Paper Shotgun will continue to write about these issues, as well as covering Activision Blizzard games as part of our commitment to cover subjects of interest to our readers. The latest news can always be found under our Activision Blizzard tag.

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