Judge denies FTC’s injunction to halt Microsoft Activision Blizzard merger

Microsoft Activision Blizzard acquisition graphic
(ESI Illustration) Logo credit: Activision Blizzard / Microsoft

A US district court in San Francisco, California has denied the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)’s request for a preliminary injunction to stop Microsoft acquiring Activision Blizzard.

The FTC had requested a preliminary injunction and restraining order on June 12th to stop the deal going through, but a judge has now found the FTC was not likely to succeed with its claim that competition would be substantially lessened if the deal was to go through.

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The FTC filed the restraining order because of reports that Microsoft was planning on going ahead with its merger with Activision Blizzard despite the FTC’s broader ongoing investigation into the merger.

The pending $69bn (~£51bn) merger, the largest in gaming history, has a termination date of July 18th. Had it granted the FTC’s request, the merger would have to have been further delayed or potentially cancelled entirely, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California found.

“After considering the parties’ voluminous pre- and post-hearing writing submissions, and having held a five-day evidentiary hearing, the court DENIES the motion for preliminary injunction,” Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley wrote in the Court’s opinion on the case.

“The FTC has not shown it is likely to succeed on its assertion the combined firm will probably pull Call of Duty from Sony PlayStation, or that its ownership of Activision content will substantially lessen competition in the video game library subscription and cloud gaming markets.”

Microsoft President Brad Smith put out a statement following the ruling. “We’re grateful to the Court in San Francisco for this quick and thorough decision and hope other jurisdictions will continue working towards a timely resolution,” Smith said. “As we’ve demonstrated consistently throughout this process, we are committed to working creatively and collaboratively to address regulatory concerns.”

Despite the ruling, the merger still does not have the blessing of the UK, where the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has blocked the deal. Microsoft and Activision Blizzard have appealed that decision — with a trial set to start July 28th — but for the deal to go ahead at present, Microsoft would have to either strike a deal with the CMA or find a way to close Activision Blizzard in the UK.

In a statement sent to IGN, Microsoft’s Brad Smith said it was “considering how the transaction might be modified” in order to address the CMA’s concerns.

Microsoft first announced its agreement to buy game publisher and major esports stakeholder Activision Blizzard for $68.7bn (~£50.5bn) in January 2022. The deal would position Microsoft as the third largest gaming company and see it absorb Activision Blizzard’s flailing franchised esports leagues, the Overwatch League and Call of Duty League.

Jake Nordland
Jake has worked at Esports Insider as a journalist and editor since early 2021. Now ESI's Media Manager, he continues to act as lead editor of print magazine The Esports Journal, and contributes his words to the website from time to time.