Thursday, December 22, 2022

Setback for Sony in UK public consultation: 75% of 2,100 submissions by members of the public are in favor of Microsoft's purchase of Activision Blizzard

Yesterday the UK Competition & Market Authority published its summary (PDF) of "views from members of the public" on Microsoft's purchase of Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ:ATVI):

"Of the 2,100 emails that we reviewed [they received 2,600 emails, but reviewed 2,100 reasonable ones after excluding hundreds of emails deemed abusive or otherwise devoid of substance], around three quarters were broadly in favour of the Merger and around a quarter were broadly against the Merger. No clear view was expressed for or against the merger by a small number of respondents."

The document also summarizes the reasons for those positions, and there are no surprises there.

How relevant is this result? It's advisable neither to overrate nor to underestimate the significance of the overwhelming majority in support of the deal:

  • No one can treat this as a representative sample, though the number of respondents is more than large enough. And even if one assumed that a representative sample would have led to the same result, competition enforcement is not a democratic process (and shouldn't be because a majority could simply be wrong on the law and/or the facts).

  • That said, the result easily passes a plausibility test. First, Sony is the only vocal opponent, and Google is rumored to also be pursuing a certain agenda, but those are self-serving complainants--and there's actually a lot of support in the industry. Second, PlayStation gamers outnumber Xbox gamers, so the result is not simply a reflection of the "console wars" battlefield. Third, it's also interesting that an unnamed third party (presumably a major game maker) also made a submission to the CMA in support of the transaction (as I mentioned in a recent post).

For my commentary on Microsoft's and Sony's submissions, let me refer you to an earlier post. Also, in my post on the "three-letter acronym soup of UK tech antitrust enforcement" I mentioned Activision Blizzard King (ABK).

Finally, more and more people realize that a so-called "gamers' lawsuit" against the deal (filed with the United States District Court for the Northern District of California) is not in the slightest reflective of actual gamer sentiment. There are other motives behind it. Compared to that one, the submission the CMA received are highly reliable--and I discussed their limitations further above.