Today, after a long list of eight delays (called time extensions), the New Zealand Commerce Commission has officially approved Microsoft's acquisition of Activision Blizzard. That makes the Pacific island nation the 42nd where the deal has been approved, but technically the Federal Trade Commission can still pursue its internal legal process even after being defeated in federal court on its request for a preliminary injunction.
The New Zealand regulator had previously expressed some concerns about the Activision Blizzard acquisition by Microsoft in a Statement of Issues document released on June 20.
We are concerned that these effects may arise as a result of the merged entity either partially or completely excluding its cloud gaming rivals, such as Sony or NVIDIA, from accessing certain Activision content, and in particular the game Call of Duty (CoD ), to the detriment of competition in cloud gaming. We also continue to consider whether the proposed transaction would substantially lessen competition because the combined entity either partially or completely excludes its game console rivals, particularly Sony, from accessing certain Activision content to the detriment of competition in the supply of video game consoles. If Activision's game titles are sufficiently important to drive sales of cloud gaming services or video game consoles, this could result in the combined entity having both the incentive and ability to foreclose rivals' access to that content, impairing their ability to compete.
However, today's approval makes it clear that these concerns have been overcome. In the press release accompanying the announcement, Commission Chair Dr John Small stated:
While Activision games, particularly Call of Duty, are popular with New Zealand gamers, our inquiries did not find that they are likely to be "must haves" to compete with Microsoft in New Zealand.
Everything now depends on the UK's Competitions and Markets Authority. The CMA was the only regulator to successfully block the Activision Blizzard deal in late April. Microsoft and Activision were about to appeal that ruling to the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT), but on the same day they defeated the FTC, both Microsoft and the CMA announced they would resume talks in light of an allegedly restructured deal. Rumors suggest that Microsoft and Activision may sell their cloud gaming rights to a third party in the UK to appease the regulator.
The CMA is expected to issue new preliminary findings on Microsoft's revised proposal later this week, although the deadline for the UK regulator's final order is set for August 28.
Today the Microsoft Activision deal was approved by New Zealand with no concessions. This huge Xbox news today will leave us looking toward the CMA appeal. T…