Microsoft announced on Friday that its planned acquisition of video game company Activision Blizzard has been unconditionally approved by China, even as the deal still faces opposition from antitrust authorities in the United States and the United Kingdom. While China’s approval is welcome news for Microsoft, it is also complicated by the fact that Activision Blizzard stopped offering many of its games in mainland China earlier this year due to a dispute with its local publishing partner.
Major Economies Approve Microsoft’s $69 Billion Takeover of Activision Blizzard
The European Union and China are the two biggest economies to have approved Microsoft’s planned $69 billion takeover of Activision Blizzard. European regulators representing the 27-nation bloc approved the deal on condition that Microsoft make some promises that would improve competition in the emerging cloud-based gaming market. Meanwhile, China’s State Administration for Market Regulation cleared the deal without any conditions, according to Microsoft. As of late Friday, the agency’s website did not mention the approval.
Activision Blizzard’s Dispute with Chinese Partner Causes Suspension of Popular Franchises
Game sales in mainland China come with a requirement that game-makers work with a Chinese publisher to release titles in the country. However, earlier this year, popular Activision Blizzard franchises such as World of Warcraft, the StarCraft series, Overwatch, and Diablo were suspended due to a disagreement between Activision subsidiary Blizzard Entertainment and its Chinese partner, NetEase. Blizzard had a longstanding partnership with NetEase dating back to 2008, which helped the latter company grow to become China’s second-largest games distributor after local rival Tencent. However, the U.S. company said late last year it would suspend most of its game services in China after current licensing agreements ended, leading to a public spat between the two companies.
Microsoft has stated that its planned acquisition of Activision Blizzard has been cleared in 37 countries, including the 27 in the EU as well as 10 others such as China, Japan, and Brazil. However, the blockbuster deal is still in jeopardy because British regulators have rejected it, and U.S. authorities are trying to thwart it.