Microsoft has sued Call of Duty players opposing the Activision merger

About two weeks after the Federal Trade Commission sued to block Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard, 10 gamers from California, New Jersey and New Mexico have come together to file a lawsuit against Microsoft.

Echoing many of the Federal Trade Commission’s concerns, gamers hope to lobby and stop Microsoft from closing “the largest technology deal ever in the video game market,” thus swallowing up its biggest competitor in the gaming industry.

In their complaint, the plaintiffs describe Activision Blizzard as a critical competitor driving industry-wide innovation and price competition. If the takeover is allowed, the public could suffer losses and damages because Microsoft is supposed to wield more market power than it actually has — suddenly given “the power to exclude competitors, limit production, reduce consumer choice, raise prices, and further inhibit competition.”

Under the Clayton Antitrust Act, consumers have similar rights as industry competitors to oppose takeovers like this, allowing courts to balance anti-competitive damages raised by consumers. Gamers are suing Microsoft for allegedly violating antitrust law, and they are deeply concerned that their favorite games may soon see a price hike, while the quality of games in general may decline. If the deal goes through, they claim Microsoft will be in a position to hoard the best talent and the most popular games to gain “extremely significant market power.”

A Microsoft spokesperson told Ars that gamers’ worst fears are unjustified.

“This deal will expand competition and create more opportunities for gamers and game developers as we strive to make more games available to more people,” a Microsoft spokesperson told Ars.

But the FTC seems to agree more with gamers, noting in a press release Microsoft’s “record of acquiring and using valuable gaming content to suppress competition from competing consoles.”

“Microsoft has already shown that it can and will withhold content from its gaming competitors,” Holly Vidova, director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Office of Competition, warned in the press release.

Loyal players fear a potential monopoly

The people filing the lawsuit offer a unique perspective on the controversy over Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision, a deal Microsoft hopes to close in 2023. In their complaint, they say gamers are particularly vulnerable to price hikes because Microsoft knows they are unlikely to replace it. their other favorite games. That means Microsoft can take beloved titles — like the Call of Duty games, which all plaintiffs play — and cut off access to platforms or services outside of Microsoft’s gaming ecosystem.

Microsoft has publicly stated that it will make Call of Duty available on competing consoles from Sony and Nintendo for the next ten years. But like the FTC, the plaintiffs say they’ve seen Microsoft make similar promises before, only to go back on their word once the acquisition was finalized, which it did with starfield After the acquisition of ZeniMax Media in 2020.

The plaintiffs also argue that just because Microsoft promised to make a game available on other consoles or game systems, it doesn’t mean it will be available at the same time, at the same quality, or have the same features and upgrades.

The complaint notes that if Microsoft uses popular Activision titles to cement its dominant position and push competitors out of the emerging cloud-based gaming market, it will essentially stifle competition in the market before it begins to flourish. Likewise, any exclusive franchises for hugely popular games that are only offered within Microsoft’s gaming ecosystem could drive users away from competing platforms, with the complaint alleging that Microsoft may “have the ability and incentive to engage in strategies to block Sony.”

One way in which the quality of game content can decrease is through the game industry’s ongoing consolidation, the complaint says. The deal could put Microsoft in a position to attract top game developers, which could result in denying independent game studios access to top talent. In this scenario, the complaint alleges, the industry could suffer from low wages, limited mobility, and poor working conditions — with Microsoft in a strong position to set industry standards.

Ars was not immediately able to reach attorneys representing the players, but the complaint says the plaintiffs believe the best future for the gaming industry is one in which Activision Blizzard continues to exist as a separate market entity, stoking industry-wide competition as one of the company’s main competitors. Microsoft. .

Their complaint states that “the industry competition introduced by Activision Blizzard must be preserved to ensure that the next generation of video game innovation and value is enhanced through competition, not stifled through consolidation”.

Players suing a US federal court have demanded that Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard violate antitrust law. Following in the footsteps of the FTC, they are fighting to ensure that mergers are permanently banned.

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