Microsoft is taking an interesting approach to secure regulatory approval for its acquisition of Activision Blizzard. In a recent filing spotted by Rock Paper Shotgun, the company told New Zealand’s Commerce Commission the troubled publisher produces no “must have” games. Yes, you read that right.
“There is nothing unique about the video games developed and published by Activision Blizzard that is a ‘must have’ for rival PC and console video game distributors that give rise to a foreclosure concern,” the company says in the document. Put another way, Microsoft believes owning the rights to best-selling Activision Blizzard franchises like Call of Duty won’t prevent rivals like Sony from competing against it.
At first glance, that would seem to be a nonsensical argument to make about a company Microsoft plans to spend $68.7 billion to acquire. All the same, it’s a claim the tech giant is making in response to its rivals. In a filing with Brazilian regulators, Sony called Call of Duty “an essential game” and an AAA title “that has no rival.” It argues that the franchise is so popular that it influences the consoles people buy. Sony is probably speaking from experience. In 2015, the company announced an agreement with Activision that saw some Call of Duty content arrive on PlayStation consoles first.
Downplaying the importance of Call of Duty is just one of the ways Microsoft has tried to placate regulators. In February, the company pledged it would continue to make the franchise available on PlayStation consoles beyond the end of any agreements Sony and Activision had in place before the acquisition was announced. More recently, the company announced a labor neutrality agreement with the Communications Workers of America, which has been organizing video game workers across the industry.