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Judge Questions FTC On Data During Microsoft/Activision Hearing

 |  July 3, 2023

In the US Federal Trade Commission’s case against Microsoft’s planned acquisition of Activision Blizzard, the judge asked for data supporting the arguments and raised concerns about the importance given to “a shooter video game.”

According to Reuters, the Federal Trade Commission has requested the judge to halt the proposed $69 billion acquisition. The FTC argues that the acquisition would grant Microsoft sole access to Activision games, including the highly popular “Call of Duty.” According to the FTC, Nintendo and Sony Group would be left out in the cold.

Microsoft, the company behind the Xbox console, has urged for a decision to be reached before the July 18 termination date for the deal. A ruling could potentially be issued as early as next week. The announcement of the deal was in January 2022, and the FTC filed a lawsuit to prevent it in December of the previous year.

Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley in San Francisco questioned FTC lawyers regarding the source of the data used by their economist to demonstrate the potential negative impact of the deal on consumers.

Related: Sony Calls UK’s Reversed Stance On Microsoft Activision Deal ‘Surprising & Irrational’

According to the FTC, the acquisition of Activision by Microsoft could potentially lead to competition issues in markets related to consoles, subscription game services, and cloud gaming.

“The harm here is we think is substantial in locking up Activision content,” said FTC lawyer James Weingarten.

After an extended back and forth over how the FTC came to its conclusions, Corley said: “All this is for a shooter video game.”

Microsoft’s Beth Wilkinson, who argued that “Call of Duty” was not essential to any gaming platform, said the deal would mean the game would be licensed broadly.

“More consumers are going to get the game. And that’s good for gamers, but it’s also good for Microsoft,” she said.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella addressed antitrust concerns by stating that the company has no intention of excluding Sony’s PlayStation in order boost sales of Microsoft Xbox consoles.

Corley has been requested to temporarily halt the deal to allow the agency’s in-house judge to make a ruling. Historically, the party that was unsuccessful in federal court often accepted the outcome and the in-house procedure was abandoned.