By Foo Yun Chee
BRUSSELS (Reuters). EU antitrust regulators have asked distributors and game developers if they fear that Microsoft will restrict their access to Activision Blizzard games after it acquires the company. This is according to a document from EU which was seen by Reuters.
U.S. software firm and Xbox maker Microsoft announced the $69Billion deal in January. It was meant to make it more competitive with Tencent, Sony and other leaders. However, the company has been facing regulatory challenges in the European Union as well as in Britain and the United States.
A questionnaire of 91 pages was sent by the European Commission earlier in the month. It is likely that these recipients will be console publishers, game developers, distributors, and suppliers of operating systems for PC, according to a person familiar.
The questionnaire asked for information about “Please indicate which partial exclusivity strategy you believe Microsoft would be able to deploy in respect to Activision Blizzard console games following Microsoft’s acquisition.”
EU antitrust watchdog wanted to know if such strategies could include degrading or interoperating Activision games on other consoles or offering upgrades to Activision games only on Xbox.
Another option was to raise the wholesale price of Activision games for distribution on other consoles, and make them available later on on other consoles.
A question was also put to companies asking if Microsoft would only make certain Activision gaming content and features available on Xbox.
A question was also asked about Activision’s Call of Duty. It asked which video game franchise Activision considers the most important to distribute and other options to Call of Duty.
Regulators sought to determine the benefits and disadvantages that game developers, publishers, and console game distribution companies would face if a particular game was distributed only on one console.
They also wanted to understand the competition among cloud game streaming services, if the combined Activision portfolio became available as part a such a service.
Questioned by rival providers of PC operating software, Microsoft was asked if it would be technical enough to stop Activision’s gaming systems from being compatible.
Microsoft stated that it will continue to work with the Commission in order to address any market concerns.
“Sony, as the industry leader, says it is worried about Call of Duty, but we’ve said we are committed to making the same game available on the same day on both Xbox and PlayStation. “We want people to have more accessibility to games, and not less,” said a Microsoft spokesperson.
The Commission gave a deadline of just before Christmas for replies, but declined to comment.
(Reporting by FooYun Chee; Editing done by Alexander Smith and Louise Heavens