Court Allows Microsoft To Buy Activision

Studio behind Call of Duty could become the newest on Microsoft's roster

After the acquisition, Activision Blizzard will continue to exist as a subsidiary of Microsoft. Photo by Josh Levin.

By Josh Levin
Published July 17, 2023 | Updated February 18, 2024 at 10:26 am

This story was updated at 7:26 p.m. to include comment from Microsoft.

A federal judge in San Francisco denied the Federal Trade Commission’s request to block Microsoft from purchasing video game studio Activision Blizzard July 10.

The FTC filed an administrative complaint December 8, seeking to block the merger. According to the FTC, the deal would substantially lessen competition in the video game industry. “Microsoft’s ownership of Activision would provide Microsoft with the ability to withhold or degrade Activision content,” the complaint stated.

Activision owns major game franchises including Call of Duty, Diablo, Overwatch, Tony Hawk and Candy Crush.

The FTC asked U.S. District Judge Jaqueline Corley to prevent the deal from closing while it completed its investigation.

“The court finds the FTC has not shown a likelihood it will prevail on its claim [that] this particular vertical merger in this specific industry may substantially lessen competition,” Corley wrote in a 53-page order denying the motion. “To the contrary, the record evidence points to more consumer access to Call of Duty and other Activision content.”

Microsoft agreed to license Call of Duty to Nintendo for ten years, contingent on the acquisition closing. The agreement would make Call of Duty games available to play on Nintendo Switch consoles.

They also made a similar agreement with Sony. “Microsoft and PlayStation have signed a binding agreement to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation following the acquisition of Activision Blizzard,” Head of Xbox Phil Spencer wrote on Twitter.

The FTC filed a notice of appeal July 13, and asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to stop Microsoft and Activision Blizzard from closing the deal while the appeal is pending. The court denied the motion.

 “From Day One of this acquisition, we’ve been committed to addressing the concerns of regulators, platform and game developers, and consumers,” Microsoft President Brad Smith wrote on Twitter. “Even after we cross the finish line for this deal’s approval, we will remain focused on ensuring that Call of Duty remains available on more platforms and for more consumers than ever before.”

The FTC did not respond to The Terabyte Tribune’s request for comment.

Said Smith, “We appreciate the Ninth Circuit’s swift response denying the FTC’s motion to further delay the deal. This brings us another step closer to the finish line in this marathon of global regulatory reviews.”

The Terabyte Tribune will continue to cover this story as it develops.

Josh Levin is the founder and editor in chief of The Terabyte Tribune, handling all aspects of operations and coverage. He can be reached via email at [email protected]