The Microsoft and Activision Blizzard merger has been given the green light in New Zealand, after the New Zealand Commerce Commission announced that it did not believe that the merger between the two tech giants would ‘substantially lessen competition in the market.’ It is the latest in a series of approvals for the deal, after Microsoft managed to defeat the US Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) case against the merger, with the European Commission giving the deal the thumbs up a few months ago.
However, Microsoft still faces one major roadblock in its quest to purchase Activision Blizzard – the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). The CMA has blocked the deal, saying it would significantly lessen competition in the cloud gaming segment. The CMA subsequently gave Microsoft a two-month pause on its appeal, and the two companies have extended the deadline on the $69 billion deal by three months, now set for October 18th. Microsoft says it is confident it can close the deal before the deadline, but has been warned that the CMA may open a new investigation should the company submit a new proposal. The CMA is set to finalize its decision on August 29th.
Microsoft welcomed the New Zealand approval in a statement, with spokesperson stating: “We appreciate the thoughtful consideration by the New Zealand Commerce Commission of our acquisition of Activision Blizzard and welcome its decision to clear the deal unconditionally. This acquisition will ultimately benefit the gaming industry and gamers and we will continue to work toward closing the deal.” The sentiment was shared on Twitter by Microsoft President Brad Smith, who tweeted; “With today’s approval from New Zealand, we’re cleared to move forward with our acquisition of Activision Blizzard in 41 countries. We will continue to work to resolve outstanding concerns and bring this deal to a close.”
The New Zealand regulator specifically highlighted the importance of Activision games such as Call of Duty, Overwatch and World of Warcraft to New Zealand gamers, and whether Microsoft would block competitors such as Sony and NVIDIA from offering these games on consoles and cloud platforms. Dr. John Small, the chairman of the commission on the case, said in his statement: “While Activision games, in particular Call of Duty, are popular with New Zealand gamers, our enquiries did not find that they are likely to be ‘must have’ in order to compete with Microsoft in New Zealand.”
New Zealand’s approval of the Microsoft and Activision Blizzard merger comes just days after similar decisions by 41 other countries, and it now appears that the main roadblock that stands in the way of the two companies sealing the deal is the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority. The CMA’s decision is due on August 29th, and a positive outcome from the agency could see the deal go ahead as planned before the October deadline.