US consumer advocates call on FTC to investigate Microsoft takeover of ActiBlizz over ‘serious competition concerns’

A collective of consumer advocacy groups has called on the US antitrust agency to look into the sale of Activision Blizzard to Microsoft.

The groups sent a letter to the chairman of the Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday, March 1, highlighting potential consumer protection, data privacy and wage cut issues if the sale proceeds.

“Gamers are already worried that the merger will make popular games exclusive to Microsoft hardware,” they write. “The advent of streaming games and Microsoft’s existing cloud infrastructure presents new opportunities for the company to weed out smaller market players through anti-competitive behavior. By absorbing another major studio and publisher of games, Microsoft will increase its ability to control content and self-prefer against market competitors.

Ultimately, they say, “Microsoft’s growing role in the gaming market may cause the company to use its leverage to raise subscription prices and limit options, among other possible harms to consumers.” In other words: Game Pass might be a bargain right now, but if its prices go up, we might not have many other places to turn.

Signatories to the letter include a consumer advocacy organization, a public interest group, a labor union, a non-profit organization responsible for corporate accountability, economic and antitrust law watchdogs, a non-profit lawyers, a digital rights advocacy group, and various community-focused advocacy groups. as organizations created to police US law.

They point out that Microsoft already has a significant stake in gaming – starting with the purchase of Mojang in 2014 and continuing with the acquisition of Bethesda in 2020. If the FTC clears the merger, Microsoft will become the third largest company in games in the world. None of Microsoft’s US-based employees are currently affiliated with a union.

“Activision Blizzard workers have come together powerfully over the past year to shine a light on a workplace culture plagued by sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and assault cases that senior management has swept aside. carpet,” the groups wrote. “Now, as these workers seek to form a union to serve their collective interests, Microsoft’s potential takeover threatens to further undermine workers’ rights and suppress wages.”

The acquisition will even affect workers outside of Microsoft, the letter says, as game developers will have fewer potential employers and contractors will have fewer partners competing for their work, potentially leading to less money. and innovation across the industry.

The signatories identify the merger as the latest in an “alarming pattern” of concentration in the games industry in recent times. They’re not wrong that the companies seem to shine together like never before. Chinese tech giant Tencent and Swedish group Embracer have also embarked on acquisitions, snapping up major game studios.

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