EU antitrust regulators have asked game developers and distributors if they think Microsoft will block their access to Activision Blizzard’s games once it has bought the company, an EU document seen by Reuters shows.
The US software giant and Xbox maker announced the $69 billion (almost €65 billion) deal in January to help it compete better with leaders Tencent and Sony but has run into regulatory headwinds in the European Union, Britain and the United States.
Legal action from 10 gamers has tried to block its merger with Call of Duty maker Activision Blizzard.The lawsuit filed in a US federal court says the deal will “create a monopoly in the video game industry”.
The European Commission sent a 91-page questionnaire earlier this month, with recipients likely to be gaming companies, including console providers, game publishers, developers and distributors and providers of PC operating systems, a person familiar with the matter said.
“Please specify which partial exclusivity strategy or strategies you believe Microsoft would have the ability to deploy with respect to Activision Blizzard’s console games after Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard,” the questionnaire asked.
The EU antitrust watchdog asked if such strategies would include degrading the quality or interoperability of Activision’s games available on competing consoles or providing upgrades to Activision’s games only on Xbox.
Other options were raising the wholesale price of Activision’s games for distribution on competing consoles and making them available on competing consoles at a later date.
Companies were also asked if Microsoft would make some of Activision’s gaming content and features exclusively available only on Xbox but not on competing consoles.
The document also included a question about Activision’s Call of Duty, asking which video game franchise is considered the most important for a console game distributor to offer and what other main alternatives there are to Call of Duty.
Regulators asked what advantages and disadvantages game developers and publishers and console game distributors would face if a game is distributed exclusively on one console.
They also wanted to know the impact for competition between cloud game streaming services if the combined Activision portfolio were to become available as part of such a service.
Rival providers of PC operating systems were asked if Microsoft would have the technical ability to prevent Activision’s games from being compatible with non-Windows operating systems.
Microsoft said it continues to work with the Commission to address any valid marketplace concerns.
“Sony, as the industry leader, says it is worried about Call of Duty, but we’ve said we are committed to making the same game available on the same day on both Xbox and PlayStation. We want people to have more access to games, not less,” a Microsoft spokesperson said.
The Commission, which gave a deadline of shortly before Christmas for responses, declined to comment.