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Keeping Bethesda games Microsoft exclusives "powerful evidence" against Activision Blizzard takeover, says FTC

Concerns about "infuriating gamers" didn't keep Starfield, Redfall multiplatform.

Microsoft's decision to keep Bethesda's games exclusive is "powerful evidence" against its Activision Blizzard takeover bid, US antitrust agency the Federal Trade Commission has said.

Earlier this month, the FTC succeeded in getting a temporary ban placed on Microsoft's $68.7bn Activision Blizzard buyout bid. Now, ahead of an upcoming hearing regarding the agency's request for a preliminary injunction, the FTC has submitted further documentation on the matter.

In a new and heavily redacted filing, the FTC has refered back to Microsoft's acquisition of ZeniMax and Bethesda. The company stated Microsoft's decision to make ZeniMax games exclusive is "powerful evidence of incentive to foreclosure".

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"Microsoft's actions following its 2021 acquisition of ZeniMax speak louder than Defendants' words," the filing reads.

"Defendants put great stock in Microsoft's concerns about 'infuriating gamers' if it were to foreclose rivals' access to Activision content... But those same concerns did not stop the ZeniMax decision."

In layman's terms, this statement from the FTC argues that the precedent set by Microsoft's previous acquisition of ZeniMax and Bethesda means the company could well make Activision Blizzard games exclusive to Xbox platforms in the future.

This is something that Microsoft has repeatedly stated would not be the case, with the media company entering into deals with the likes of Nintendo, Steam and Nvidia in a bid to bring titles such as Call of Duty to a wider audience.

The filing continued to address Microsoft's own attempts to placate the agency, stating: "Defendants try to distinguish Redfall and Starfield as being unlike Call of Duty because those games do not 'materially feature multi-player play' or lacked 'existing cross-platform gaming communities'".

However, it noted this distinction had "no role in Microsoft's ZeniMax decision, which applied to all future ZeniMax games."

It continued: "Microsoft's ZeniMax decision is powerful evidence as to Microsoft's incentives here and should give this Court significant pause when conisdering Defendents' assurances that 'Microsoft intends to operate Activision similarly to other recent acquisitions...'."

Back in the UK, Microsoft is preparing its case for the Competition Appeal Tribunal, which has a preliminary 24th July start date. Even if a judge sides with Microsoft, the ruling will still need to go back to the Competition and Markets Authority for review.

Meanwhile, earlier this month, Xbox boss Phil Spencer said he was still expecting the deal to eventually go through, though admitted it was taking up "focus".

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