Activision-Blizzard Acquisition: EU Regulators May Approve the Deal, FTC Grants Microsoft Access to Internal Sony Documents
Early last year, Microsoft proposed the biggest acquisition in the history of the global gaming industry, with a $69 billion offer to acquire Activision-Blizzard, but the Federal Trade Commission and the European Commission have put a stop to the company’s plans, by putting the deal under investigation. Readers that are inquisitive about all the details for the deal can check out the timeline here.
Recent developments on the deal reveal that Microsoft might just be able go through with this deal. A new report by Reuters reveals that Microsoft will not be expected to sell any assets to get the European Union’s approval when the deal is expected to finalise on April 25, 2023. It seems that making those last-minute deals with Nintendo and Nvidia to provide Call of Duty on their platforms for the next 10 years was integral in making things smooth for Xbox.
Microsoft to get Access to Sony Documents
In other news, Microsoft is all set to go on trial for the investigation placed by the FTC this summer. In order to bolster their case in this issue, Microsoft has requested access to Sony’s documents and FTC has granted the company’s wishes. Sony has put up certain requests related to Microsoft’s access to their documents. Most of them have been denied, but some of them have been allowed.
Sony Requests Granted
One of the demands by Microsoft was to get access to Sony’s documents that were created in the past decade. Sony claimed that the time period should be 5 years instead of 10 years as the information that far in the past will not be relevant to the case in hand. FTC granted this request to Sony as Microsoft wasn’t able to provide sufficient backing to the company’s demands. Therefore, access will only be provided to documents dated post 2019.
Another request that was granted revolved around the performance reviews or evaluations of the Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO, Jim Ryan. Microsoft revealed that they wanted to see the ‘metrics’ used by the company to evaluate their business, Sony argued that these ‘metrics’ weren’t relevant to the case. Microsoft also demanded other employee evaluations, but Sony requested against that too, deeming it invasion of privacy.
Sony Requests Denied
Sony had also requested to quash certain demands of Microsoft entirely, but ultimately failed at that. The Japanese tech giants wished to quash Microsoft’s claim to get access to “All drafts of and Communications regarding [SIE’s] President and CEO Jim Ryan’s declaration titled ‘SIE Declaration to FTC on Microsoft – Activision Blizzard Transaction,’ dated December 5, 2022.” This request was denied entirely by the FTC.
Their next request was to limit custodians and not provide documents of Lin Tao, Hideaki Nishino, predecessor custodians that were employed before 2019, and Greg McCurdy, SIE’s in-house anti-trust lawyer. This order was also denied entirely by the FTC.
Furthermore, Microsoft also demanded access to “an executed copy of every content licensing agreement” that Sony has made with their third-party publisher in the time frame of 2012 to present”. This is because Microsoft wants to learn the “full extent” of their “exclusivity arrangement” with these publishers and also wish to learn the “exclusivity provisions” that are set by them.
Sony stated that their system does not all them to search for documents by company type, they instead have to search through company name. Therefore, Sony will have to manually review over “150,000 contract records” that have been created with “roughly 60,000 companies” which will be “burdensome” for them. It will also be an issue to determine which “contract imposes a notice obligation” for discovery.
Lastly, Sony had also wanted to limit the definitions in the subponea sent to them. Sony objected to 20 different definitions, calling them “overly broad, unduly burdensome, and vague.” FTC did not grant this request as Sony failed to provide “any particulars, examples, or legal arguments”.
Xbox Will Exist Even If Activision-Blizzard Acquisition Does Not Happen
In other news, Phil Spencer, CEO of Microsoft Gaming addressed questions of what will happen to Xbox if it’s not able acquire Activision-Blizzard, In an interview with The Times (via VGC). Spencer stated that although this is an important acquisition for the company, it is not vital for the organization’s existence. He added, “Xbox will exist” even if the deal does not go as planned.
Phil Spencer Feels AI Will Be a Positive Addition to Gaming
After the recent partnership between Microsoft and OpenAI, many players have been curious about how this collaboration will influence the future of gaming at Xbox. Phil Spencer has just addressed this too through an interview with Xbox On. He stated that the “intersection of AI and gaming” has always been there and now the capability of this technology keeps increasing in scale.
He shared that AI has always had an integral role in video games and he is excited about how the team at Xbox is working with the technology. Moreover, he stated that the creators are also working with AI engineers in order to make this technology an “additive, positive force in the games that we are building.”
Xbox Might Have Something in Store for us Before June Showcase
In the same interview with Xbox On, Spencer stated that most of the company’s attention is on the June showcase. They have got their hands with deciding what to showcase during the event, but there might be some announcements that would be revealed before the showcase. He called them “Golden-Eye” type announcements but he did not elaborate much on it.