An anonymous reader quotes a report from Politico: The Federal Trade Commission is likely to file an antitrust lawsuit to block Microsoft’s $69 billion takeover of video game giant Activision Blizzard, maker of the hit games Call of Duty and Candy Crush, according to three people with knowledge of the matter. A lawsuit would be the FTC’s biggest move yet under Chair Lina Khan to rein in the power of the world’s largest technology companies. It would also be a major black mark for Microsoft, which has positioned itself as a white knight of sorts on antitrust issues in the tech sector after going through its own grueling regulatory antitrust battles around the world more than two decades ago.
A lawsuit challenging the deal is not guaranteed, and the FTC’s four commissioners have yet to vote out a complaint or meet with lawyers for the companies, two of the people said. However, the FTC staff reviewing the deal are skeptical of the companies’ arguments, those people said. The investigation remains ongoing, but much of the heavy lifting is completed, including depositions of Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella and Activision head Bobby Kotick, the people with knowledge of the investigation said. If the agency does move ahead with a case, it could come as soon as next month, said the people, all of whom were granted anonymity to discuss a confidential matter.
Central to the FTC’s concerns is whether acquiring Activision would give Microsoft an unfair boost in the video game market. Microsoft’s Xbox is number three to the industry-leading Sony Interactive Entertainment and its PlayStation console. Sony, however, has emerged as the deal’s primary opponent, telling the FTC and regulators in other countries that if Microsoft made hit games like Call of Duty exclusive to its platforms Sony would be significantly disadvantaged. […] To a lesser extent, Google is also an opponent of the deal, according to two of the people with knowledge of the matter. The company has argued that Microsoft has purposely degraded the quality of its Game Pass subscription service when used with Google’s Chrome operating system, and owning Activision would further its incentive to do so, ultimately steering hardware sales towards Microsoft and away from Google, the people said. Last month, Microsoft Xbox chief Phil Spencer said he intends to continue to ship Call of Duty games on PlayStation “as long as there’s a PlayStation out there to ship to.”
Microsoft spokesperson David Cuddy said the company “is prepared to address the concerns of regulators, including the FTC, and Sony to ensure the deal closes with confidence. We’ll still trail Sony and Tencent in the market after the deal closes, and together Activision and Xbox will benefit gamers and developers and make the industry more competitive.”
“Any suggestion that the transaction could lead to anticomp effects is completely absurd. This merger will benefit gamers and the US gaming industry, especially as we face increasingly stiff competition from abroad,” added Activision spokesperson Joe Christinat. “We are committed to continuing to work cooperatively with regulators around the globe to allow the transaction to proceed, but will not hesitate to fight to defend the transaction if required.”