BRUSSELS--Microsoft Corp won EU antitrust approval for its $69 billion acquisition of Activision on Monday, in a significant boost that could prompt Chinese and South Korean regulators to follow suit despite a British veto of the deal. The U.S. software giant still faces a battle to clinch the world's biggest gaming industry takeover, however. It has until May 24 to appeal a decision by Britain's Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) to block it. A final decision may take months. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission's case against the deal is also pending at the agency, though Japan approved it in March.
The European Commission said the transaction was pro-competitive due to Microsoft's agreement to licence popular Activision games such as "Call of Duty" to rival game streaming platforms, confirming a Reuters report in March. Such licences are "practical and effective", European Union antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager told reporters. "Actually they significantly improve the condition for cloud game streaming compared to the present situation, which is why we actually consider them pro-competitive," she added, contrasting with the UK position that the deal would hit competition in that part of the market.
In rejecting the deal, the UK watchdog was seen as flexing its muscle on the global regulatory stage since Brexit. Microsoft has in recent months signed licensing deals with Nvidia, Nintendo, Ukraine's Boosteroid and Japan's Ubitus to bring Activision games to their platforms should the deal go through. "The European Commission has required Microsoft to license popular Activision Blizzard games automatically to competing cloud gaming services. This will apply globally and will empower millions of consumers worldwide to play these games on any device they choose," said Microsoft President Brad Smith.