Entertainment

Microsoft's Activision Blizzard acquisition faces a new hurdle in the UK

The CMA says it is "concerned" that the acquisition could "substantially lessen competition" in gaming consoles, subscription services and cloud gaming.

A screenshot of various Activision Blizzard games.

The U.K.'s Competition and Markets Authority is pressing Microsoft on the Activision deal, all but ensuring a more in-depth regulatory review will be required.

Image: Microsoft

Microsoft is now contending with increased pressure from U.K. regulators over its proposed acquisition of game publisher Activision Blizzard. On Thursday, the U.K.'s Competition and Markets Authority said it had "concerns" over the deal and would proceed with a second and extended period of regulatory review if Microsoft did not address the issues within five business days.

The tight time window all but ensures the so-called Phase 2 review will likely commence, which may involve deeper negotiations with the CMA over a period of many months that could prevent the deal from closing until well into 2023. Microsoft originally set a final deadline of June 2023 for the deal to pass, and the company is still working with both the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the European Union's European Commission, the other two major regulatory bodies that could reasonably hold up or even doom the deal entirely.

"The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is concerned that Microsoft’s anticipated purchase of Activision Blizzard could substantially lessen competition in gaming consoles, multi-game subscription services, and cloud gaming services (game streaming)," the CMA wrote in a statement. The agency went on to say that it's concerned that if "Microsoft buys Activision Blizzard it could harm rivals, including recent and future entrants into gaming, by refusing them access to Activision Blizzard games or providing access on much worse terms."

Sorcha O’Carroll, the CMA's senior director of mergers, said in a statement, "We are concerned that Microsoft could use its control over popular games like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft post-merger to harm rivals, including recent and future rivals in multi-game subscription services and cloud gaming."

Microsoft has already released a blog post in response that outlines its position on the deal and tries to assuage concerns around Call of Duty and other thorny parts of the proposed acquisition. The post, penned by Microsoft Gaming CEO and Xbox chief Phil Spencer, echoes familiar statements company executives have made over the past nine months, including a commitment to keep Activision's Call of Duty franchise available to PlayStation players.

"We’ve heard that this deal might take franchises like Call of Duty away from the places where people currently play them. That’s why, as we’ve said before, we are committed to making the same version of Call of Duty available on PlayStation on the same day the game launches elsewhere," Spencer said. "We will continue to enable people to play with each other across platforms and across devices. We know players benefit from this approach because we’ve done it with Minecraft, which continues to be available on multiple platforms and has expanded to even more since Mojang joined Microsoft in 2014."

Spencer's post also goes to great lengths to outline exactly why Microsoft sees the Activision acquisition as a vital way to grow its consumer base beyond the console audience. "While we love consoles, we recognize that they are not the only way that people play games. Today, the largest and fastest growing segment of gaming is mobile platforms. To reach the billions of players where they are and no matter what device they play on, we need to embrace choice," Spencer wrote. "We are expanding choice in two ways: through the creation of Game Pass, which gives players a subscription option; and by bringing more games to mobile platforms, including through our cloud game streaming technology."

Spencer said the Activision deal includes not only big console and PC franchises like Diablo and Overwatch in addition to Call of Duty, but also mobile expertise in the form of Candy Crush maker King. Combined, the deal would allow Microsoft to grow its cloud gaming initiative to bring console games to smartphones and other screens while also developing more mobile-first titles to compete in the mobile gaming market. (Sony on Monday announced it had acquired its first mobile gaming studio to develop new PlayStation titles for smartphones.)

"This promises to open up mobile gaming, creating new distribution opportunities for game developers outside of mobile app stores while delivering compelling and immersive experiences for players by using the power of the cloud," Spencer said. "And we can extend the joy of playing to devices that people already own, including Smart TVs and laptops."

Fintech

Judge Zia Faruqui is trying to teach you crypto, one ‘SNL’ reference at a time

His decisions on major cryptocurrency cases have quoted "The Big Lebowski," "SNL," and "Dr. Strangelove." That’s because he wants you — yes, you — to read them.

The ways Zia Faruqui (right) has weighed on cases that have come before him can give lawyers clues as to what legal frameworks will pass muster.

Photo: Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images

“Cryptocurrency and related software analytics tools are ‘The wave of the future, Dude. One hundred percent electronic.’”

That’s not a quote from "The Big Lebowski" — at least, not directly. It’s a quote from a Washington, D.C., district court memorandum opinion on the role cryptocurrency analytics tools can play in government investigations. The author is Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui.

Keep Reading Show less
Veronica Irwin

Veronica Irwin (@vronirwin) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol covering fintech. Previously she was at the San Francisco Examiner, covering tech from a hyper-local angle. Before that, her byline was featured in SF Weekly, The Nation, Techworker, Ms. Magazine and The Frisc.

The financial technology transformation is driving competition, creating consumer choice, and shaping the future of finance. Hear from seven fintech leaders who are reshaping the future of finance, and join the inaugural Financial Technology Association Fintech Summit to learn more.

Keep Reading Show less
FTA
The Financial Technology Association (FTA) represents industry leaders shaping the future of finance. We champion the power of technology-centered financial services and advocate for the modernization of financial regulation to support inclusion and responsible innovation.
Enterprise

AWS CEO: The cloud isn’t just about technology

As AWS preps for its annual re:Invent conference, Adam Selipsky talks product strategy, support for hybrid environments, and the value of the cloud in uncertain economic times.

Photo: Noah Berger/Getty Images for Amazon Web Services

AWS is gearing up for re:Invent, its annual cloud computing conference where announcements this year are expected to focus on its end-to-end data strategy and delivering new industry-specific services.

It will be the second re:Invent with CEO Adam Selipsky as leader of the industry’s largest cloud provider after his return last year to AWS from data visualization company Tableau Software.

Keep Reading Show less
Donna Goodison

Donna Goodison (@dgoodison) is Protocol's senior reporter focusing on enterprise infrastructure technology, from the 'Big 3' cloud computing providers to data centers. She previously covered the public cloud at CRN after 15 years as a business reporter for the Boston Herald. Based in Massachusetts, she also has worked as a Boston Globe freelancer, business reporter at the Boston Business Journal and real estate reporter at Banker & Tradesman after toiling at weekly newspapers.

Image: Protocol

We launched Protocol in February 2020 to cover the evolving power center of tech. It is with deep sadness that just under three years later, we are winding down the publication.

As of today, we will not publish any more stories. All of our newsletters, apart from our flagship, Source Code, will no longer be sent. Source Code will be published and sent for the next few weeks, but it will also close down in December.

Keep Reading Show less
Bennett Richardson

Bennett Richardson ( @bennettrich) is the president of Protocol. Prior to joining Protocol in 2019, Bennett was executive director of global strategic partnerships at POLITICO, where he led strategic growth efforts including POLITICO's European expansion in Brussels and POLITICO's creative agency POLITICO Focus during his six years with the company. Prior to POLITICO, Bennett was co-founder and CMO of Hinge, the mobile dating company recently acquired by Match Group. Bennett began his career in digital and social brand marketing working with major brands across tech, energy, and health care at leading marketing and communications agencies including Edelman and GMMB. Bennett is originally from Portland, Maine, and received his bachelor's degree from Colgate University.

Enterprise

Why large enterprises struggle to find suitable platforms for MLops

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, and as larger enterprises go from deploying hundreds of models to thousands and even millions of models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

Photo: artpartner-images via Getty Images

On any given day, Lily AI runs hundreds of machine learning models using computer vision and natural language processing that are customized for its retail and ecommerce clients to make website product recommendations, forecast demand, and plan merchandising. But this spring when the company was in the market for a machine learning operations platform to manage its expanding model roster, it wasn’t easy to find a suitable off-the-shelf system that could handle such a large number of models in deployment while also meeting other criteria.

Some MLops platforms are not well-suited for maintaining even more than 10 machine learning models when it comes to keeping track of data, navigating their user interfaces, or reporting capabilities, Matthew Nokleby, machine learning manager for Lily AI’s product intelligence team, told Protocol earlier this year. “The duct tape starts to show,” he said.

Keep Reading Show less
Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of RedTailMedia.org and is the author of "Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media," a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.

Latest Stories
Bulletins