500 public comments to the CMA on Microsoft-Activision deal were abusive or unintelligible

Gamers were given their first opportunity to have their say on Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard in a public consultation with the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority.

So how did they conduct themselves outside of the gaming bubble? With abuse and unintelligence of course.

According to the CMA, it received approximately 2600 emails, around 500 of which “contained abusive content (with no other substantive content), or were blank, unintelligible, stated to be from non-UK consumers, or not in English”.

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The remaining 2100 were split with three quarters in favor of the deal, one quarter against, and a negligible number taking no clear stance on the merger (thanks, GamesIndustry.biz).

That adds up to around 75 percent of respondents supporting the deal, which is a blow to Sony’s vehement opposition to the merger.

The CMA summarised the reasons given by respondents for supporting or opposing the merger. Among those that supported the merger, arguments included:

  • Sony and Nintendo are stronger than Microsoft in console gaming, and the merger will help Microsoft to compete more closely against them;
  • The merger will not harm rival consoles because Microsoft has made public and private commitments to keep Activision content, including Call of Duty, non-exclusive. The availability of Minecraft on rival consoles shows that Microsoft’s commercial strategy is not to make games exclusive;
  • It is unlikely that Microsoft would make Call of Duty exclusive due to its multiplayer nature. Making Call of Duty exclusive to Xbox would only create a gap in the market that could be filled by a rival cross-platform shooter game;
  • The merger is a reaction to Sony’s business model for PlayStation, which has historically involved securing exclusive content or early access to popular cross-platform gaming franchises, such as Final Fantasy and Silent Hill;
  • Microsoft’s plans to add Call of Duty to Game Pass are pro-competitive and will lower the price of accessing games for consumers.

Meanwhile, arguments against the merger included:

  • Microsoft is already dominant in PC operating systems, and this merger is an attempt to gain a similar position in gaming;
  • The merger would lead to consolidation and would set a harmful precedent in the gaming industry of acquiring large publishers rather than encouraging organic growth;
  • Microsoft will make Call of Duty exclusive to Xbox, just as it did with Bethesda after it acquired ZeniMax Media;
  • Microsoft can capture the multi-game subscription market after the merger because it can afford to add games to Game Pass at a loss;
  • Microsoft is already dominant in cloud gaming, and the merger could affect the future of new entrants into that space.

The CMA will now consider this feedback, as well as continue its own investigations, before releasing its final report by the statutory deadline of 1st March 2023.

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