Since it first expressed interest in buying Activision earlier this year, Microsoft has had to fend off (justifiably) concerns about any impending ability to fend off competition. The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the UK Competition and Markets Authority, and other government watchdogs have all launched investigations into the bid out of concern that Microsoft – which would become the world’s third-largest gaming company – could present a monopoly risk. The issue escalated last week with the FTC’s announcement that it would sue to block Microsoft’s purchase.
Now Smith is running damage control, insisting to regulators that the acquisition won’t pile up Microsoft’s big franchise. At the company’s most recent shareholder meeting, Smith argued that Sony has a stronger hold on popular franchises than Microsoft. According to Bloomberg, Smith said that Sony’s PlayStation has 286 exclusive games while Microsoft’s Xbox has just 59, and that a judge would have to decide that going from 59 to 60 is so dangerous to competition that he should stop it. [acquisition] from moving forward.”
How exactly Smith came up with these numbers is a mystery, but he gets his point across nonetheless. Recalling Microsoft’s statement this summer about Activision not having any “must-have” titles, Smith argues that Sony shouldn’t sweat the acquisition—because Activision never did anything to sweat about in the first place.
To sweeten the deal, Smith proposed a legally binding consent decree that would keep Call of Duty—Active’s biggest franchise—on PlayStation for a decade after the acquisition. The decree has been in place since November and tracks with Microsoft’s other ten-year offerings, as it did at Nintendo last week.
Despite the vote to sue, the FTC has maintained an air of mystery surrounding the acquisition: In response to Microsoft’s PlayStation consent decree, the FTC said only that it is “always willing to consider remedial proposals.” But if the FTC still isn’t satisfied, it’s hard to imagine what else Microsoft could do to appeal to Sony and antitrust watchdogs — short of scrapping the deal entirely.