Monday, November 14, 2022

EU Commission staffer who tweeted about plans for Call of Duty is competition chief Margrethe Vestager's former spokesman: Microsoft-ActivisionBlizzard update

This is a quick follow-up to my previous post, DG COMP faces worst case-specific credibility problem in history as PlayStation-loving EC official's tweet taints Microsoft-ActivisionBlizzard merger review, so-called clarifications don't help. The European Commission's attempt to explain away the Sonygate affair has already been reported in media around the globe, not only on game websites like Video Games Chronicle, but even including, an Australian website run by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. We can't blame games-specialized and mainstream media journalists for not having seen immediately why the EU Commission's statement does nothing to assuage the actual concern, which is that they launched an in-depth merger review with a preconceived notion favoring a position taken by Sony that cannot withstand scrutiny.

A Brussels-based reporter has now brought it to my attention that the PlayStation-loving EC official (whom I jokingly named "Sonyboy"--no offense)--is actually Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager's (i.e., the bloc's competition chief's) former spokesman!

That background makes his tweet about what remedy the Commission has in mind all the more astounding.

Here's another tweet of his--from early 2019--about a New Year's cake that Mrs. Vestager baked for her team:

A Computerworld article from 2015 contains the following passage:

"Vestager spokesman Ricardo Cardoso confirmed the meeting at the Commission's midday press briefing Tuesday. He declined to comment specifically on what was discussed since it relates to an ongoing competition investigation."

It seems he's now less concerned about what "relates to an ongoing competition investigation."

The fact that he was replaced when Mrs. Vestager started her second term may mean that he didn't get along too well with her. At any rate, Mr. Cardoso is an EC insider (whose current job likely involves liaising with DG COMP) and a former DG COMP spokesman.

A Phase 2 merger investigation should not be a charade where the outcome is a foregone conclusion. DG COMP must always be receptive to arguments for unconditional clearance and focus on protecting the competitive process as opposed to a particular competitor such as Sony, whose agenda is clearly not pro-competitive as its restrictions on cross-platform play show.