The European Union’s competition watchdog said it would pursue an in-depth investigation into Microsoft Corp.
planned $75 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard Inc.
adding to the global scrutiny of whether the deal could harm competition in the videogame industry.
The European Commission, which opened its initial, formal probe of the deal in late September, said it is concerned that the deal may reduce competition in the markets for console and personal computer distribution, videogames and PC operating systems. It added that it is concerned that Microsoft may foreclose access to Activision Blizzard games to other game distributors, especially the publisher’s most successful franchises such as Call of Duty.
“We must ensure that opportunities remain for future and existing distributors of PC and console videogames, as well as for rival suppliers of PC operating systems,” the Commission said. “The point is to ensure that the gaming ecosystem remains vibrant to the benefit of users in a sector that is evolving at a fast pace.”
The shift to an in-depth probe, also known as a phase-two investigation, signals that the regulator is concerned the deal could restrict competition within the bloc. Phase-two reviews typically involve more extensive information gathering and detailed requests for information from competitors.
The Commission said it has 90 working days, until March 23, to make a decision.
An expanded version of this story appears on WSJ.com.
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