In January 2022, Microsoft announced the proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard, Inc., to advance our goal to bring more creative and innovative games to players everywhere and on any device. Today, we are taking another important step regarding this transaction. To address the concerns about the impact of the proposed acquisition on cloud game streaming raised by the UK Competition and Markets Authority, we are restructuring the transaction to acquire a narrower set of rights. This includes executing an agreement effective at the closing of our merger that transfers the cloud streaming rights for all current and new Activision Blizzard PC and console games released over the next 15 years to Ubisoft Entertainment SA, a leading global game publisher. The rights will be in perpetuity.
As a result of the agreement with Ubisoft, Microsoft believes its proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard presents a substantially different transaction under UK law than the transaction Microsoft submitted for the CMA’s consideration in 2022. As such, Microsoft today has notified the restructured transaction to the CMA and anticipates that the CMA review processes can be completed before the 90-day extension in its acquisition agreement with Activision Blizzard expires on October 18.
Under the restructured transaction, Microsoft will not be in a position either to release Activision Blizzard games exclusively on its own cloud streaming service – Xbox Cloud Gaming – or to exclusively control the licensing terms of Activision Blizzard games for rival services.
The agreement provides Ubisoft with a unique opportunity to commercialize the distribution of games via cloud streaming. The agreement will enable Ubisoft to innovate and encourage different business models in the licensing and pricing of these games on cloud streaming services worldwide. Ubisoft will compensate Microsoft for the cloud streaming rights to Activision Blizzard’s games through a one-off payment and through a market-based wholesale pricing mechanism, including an option that supports pricing based on usage. It will also give Ubisoft the opportunity to offer Activision Blizzard’s games to cloud gaming services running non-Windows operating systems.
Of importance, Microsoft’s obligations to provide cloud streaming rights in the European Economic Area remain in place, in full compliance with Microsoft’s commitments to the European Commission. The agreement with Ubisoft has been structured so that Microsoft will still acquire the rights needed to honor fully its legal obligations under its commitments to the European Commission, as well as its existing contractual obligations to other cloud game streaming providers, including Nvidia, Boosteroid, Ubitus, and Nware. Microsoft is engaging closely with the European Commission to support the EC’s assessment of the agreement and confirmation that the commitments remain undisturbed.
Since our initial announcement with Activision Blizzard in January last year, we have endeavored to earn regulatory approval for the transaction, addressing concerns when raised, including by entering into binding legal commitments to bring Call of Duty to rival consoles and Activision Blizzard games to rival cloud streaming platforms. As a result, the transaction is now in a position to move forward in more than 40 countries.
We believe that this development is positive for players, the progression of the cloud game streaming market, and for the growth of our industry. And, as we continue to navigate the review process with the CMA, we remain as committed as ever to bringing the incredible benefits of the acquisition to players, developers, and the industry. Today’s development brings us one step closer to bringing the joy of gaming to players everywhere.