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4J Studios and five others argue Microsoft's bid to buy Activision Blizzard should go ahead in the UK

The UK regulator the CMA has revealed the responses to its provisional findings over Microsoft’s planned $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard.

The regulator believes the deal would pose a risk to competition and has called on Microsoft to offer remedies to counter its concerns. The regulator prefers structural remedies, such as selling off the Call of Duty IP. However, Microsoft has proposed behavioural remedies, specifically offering Call of Duty to multiple platforms over the next ten years.

Microsoft, Sony and Activision Blizzard’s response to the findings have been revealed in full, and repeat many of the arguments that the companies have made already. Microsoft insists that the deal will not give it the power to foreclose PlayStation, highlighting the console’s popularity and arguing that Call of Duty isn’t sufficiently big enough to cause a large enough shift. It repeats its pledge to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation, regardless. It also believes the CMA has made a ‘fundamental and obvious error’ in its calculations over the deal.

Sony, meanwhile, points at ways that Microsoft could honour the proposed contract, while undermining Call of Duty on PlayStation platforms. This includes by raising the price of the game (encouraging players to subscribe on Game Pass), or lowering the quality of the PlayStation version.

Alongside the three companies at the centre of the situation, six third-party developers and publishers operating in the UK have also responded to the findings. Each one of the six companies believe the deal should be allowed to proceed for various reasons, ranging from the need to offer more competition to PlayStation, to improving the working conditions of Activision’s employees.

The only company that was comfortable making its name public is 4J Studios, which worked on the console versions of Minecraft (both before and after the game was acquired by Microsoft in 2014).

“During the phase of Microsoft ownership [of Minecraft] we have never been under any pressure to favour Microsoft owned formats, indeed we were actively encouraged by Microsoft to develop unique content such as the “Mario Mash Up” pack for Nintendo formats,” says the studio’s boss Chris van der Kuyl.

“Microsoft have also brought significant stability and rigour to our contractual and commercial relationships and have been both fair and professional in all our dealings with them.

“The games industry is now the world’s largest entertainment industry and, as such, it is inevitable that companies like Microsoft need to gain access to more content and talent to justify their continued investment into large scale hardware platforms such as Xbox.

“We do not see the proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard as anything other than a natural evolution of the industry and it does not give us any cause for concern for our own future opportunities.”

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