- Microsoft disputes UK criticism
- Activision Blizzard acquisition approved
- Microsoft invests in UK AI
Brad Smith, the president of Microsoft, has refuted his characterization of the United Kingdom as “bad for business” from the previous year.
Mr. Smith made the remarks after the competition watchdog initially denied Microsoft’s acquisition bid for gaming giant Activision Blizzard.
“Severely shaken” was the public’s confidence in the United Kingdom, according to him.
However, he has since stated that the Competition and Markets Authority’s approval of the transaction was “rigorous and equitable.”
“It compelled Microsoft to modify the acquisition proposal we had put forth, which involved Activision Blizzard spinning off specific rights regarding cloud gaming that the CMA had concerns about,” Mr. Smith explained.
The CMA obstructed Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision in April of last year, concerned it would reduce innovation and consumer choice in the rapidly expanding cloud gaming industry.
Microsoft’s Acquired Ambitions
Microsoft owns the Xbox gaming console, while Activision Blizzard develops games such as the widely acclaimed Call of Duty series.
Mr. Smith also suggested at the time of the initial rejection that it would increase the European Union’s appeal as a business destination.
It was a setback for the United Kingdom’s government, aspiring for the nation to become a technological superpower.
The regulator approved the transaction in October following Microsoft’s reorganization of its offer.
According to Mr. Smith’s statement, the CMA not only reaffirmed its stance but also established a practical trajectory for investment and innovation. “I believe that is beneficial for all parties involved.”
Sarah Cardell, the head of the competition watchdog, criticized Microsoft’s behavior in October, stating, “Businesses and their advisors should be certain that the strategies Microsoft has implemented are not an acceptable method of interacting with the CMA.”
“Microsoft had the opportunity to restructure during our initial investigation, but they insisted on a package of measures that we informed them would not work,” she continued. Protracted proceedings in this manner are financially and time-wasting.
A contentious agreement
The acquisition of Activision Blizzard by Microsoft, the largest merger in gaming industry history, was declared in January of last year.
However, it generated considerable controversy and faced varied reactions from regulatory bodies worldwide.
In August 2023, Microsoft submitted a restructured agreement for evaluation by the competition monitor.
In accordance with the new proposal, Microsoft consented to grant Ubisoft, the French video game publisher, the privilege of streaming Activision games from the cloud for a period of fifteen years.
This allows gamers who prefer competing consoles to Sony’s PlayStation or Microsoft’s Xbox to continue streaming games from the cloud, including Call of Duty, Overwatch, and World of Warcraft.
Additionally, Mr. Smith emphasized Microsoft’s £2.5 billion pledge to invest in AI infrastructure in the United Kingdom over the next three years, as well as his attendance at the “critical” AI Safety Summit hosted by the UK government in November.
In 2023, the United Kingdom committed £900 million to construct such an infrastructure for its researchers, he said, which was more audacious than any other government in the world.
“In my opinion, that concludes a prosperous year. Furthermore, it serves as a useful reminder that when the year is coming to a close, it is occasionally more crucial to contemplate the events that transpired on a specific date known as April 26….”