The Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC) has reviewed Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard. According to the regulator, the $68.7 billion deal won’t reduce competition in the market.
On March 28, the JFTC published a press release along with a 43-page document (in Japanese) detailing the results of the review.
The regulator concluded that Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard is “unlikely to result in substantially restraining competition in any particular fields of trade.” So it decided to issue a clearance notification to the parties.
According to the JFTC, the merger “falls under the safe harbor criteria for vertical business combinations” in the field of downloadable premium games for consoles. In cloud gaming, the deal is unlikely to result in a shortage of supply because products are distributed in digital format.
It is interesting to see the $68.7 billion deal approved in Japan, home to Sony, arguably the acquisition’s most vocal critic. The company has been trying for months now to convince regulators to block it, with SIE boss Jim Ryan reportedly telling Microsoft, “I don’t want a new Call of Duty deal. I just want to block your merger.”
In a recent response to the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), Sony also noted that Call of Duty and other Activision Blizzard franchises should “remain in independent hands.” The Japanese company is also skeptical about a potential licensing agreement with Microsoft, saying that “there is no realistic prospect of such an agreement being reached that would maintain effective competition.”
Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard has already been cleared in Brazil, Chile, Saudi Arabia, and Serbia. However, the deal is still under review in Europe and the US.
The CMA, which recently softened its stance, has until April 26 to rule on the merger. The European Commission delayed its decision to May 22, and the US Federal Trade Commission recently requested more documents from Microsoft ahead of an antitrust trial scheduled for August 2.