Thursday, January 12, 2023

Federal judge grants Microsoft motion for expedited briefing, will hear motion to stay so-called gamers' lawsuit over Activision Blizzard purchase next Thursday

This is a follow-up to yesterday's post on Microsoft's motion to stay the so-called gamers' (more accurately, lawyers') lawsuit in the Northern District of California over its acquisition of Activision Blizzard King (NASDAQ:ATVI). As I reported, Microsoft asked United States District Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley to shorten the timeline for briefing on the motion as the plaintiff side wanted to go ahead with discovery (including depositions of unnamed high-ranking Microsoft executives)--and because a stay would eliminate the need for Microsoft to respond to the motion for a preliminary injunction by the end of next week.

The lawyers who brought that case opposed the motion to stay as well as the motion to expedite briefing. Judge Corley has just granted the latter:

DeMartini et al. v. Microsoft Corp., case no. 3:22-cv-08991-JSC (N.D. Cal.): Order Re: Microsoft's Motion to Stay

As a result, the lawyers who brought the case have until Tuesday, January 17, to file their opposition brief to the motion to stay. I thought they would at most get until Monday, based on my experience with other motions to shorten time in that district. Microsoft can file an optional reply, and the hearing will take place next Thursday, January 19, at 10 AM Pacific Time in San Francisco.

The order also states that "[b]riefing on the motion for a preliminary injunction is held in abeyance pending further order of the Court." This makes it unlikely that Microsoft will have to respond to the PI motion on January 20 (next week's Friday), no matter how the court rules on the motion to stay.

In other Microsoft-ActivisionBlizzard news, Chile's antitrust regulator (FNE) has released a detailed version of its December 2022 clearance decision. The most interesting part is a survey of Call of Duty gamers, according to which 61% of CoD players would rather switch games than consoles should that particular title become unavailable on the console they own, and even CoD gamers consider Grand Theft Auto more of a "must have" title.

The Washington Post's Editorial Board published an interesting opinion piece yesterday that takes a centrist position. The WaPo editors don't dispute the need for stricter enforcement of merger laws when Big Tech companies make major acquisitions, and even encourage FTC Chair Lina Khan and the other commissioners to "test their more novel theories of modern-day antitrust in court." But the article explains why in this particular case, the FTC should conclude that the deal is procompetitive, at least on the basis of "a legally binding consent decree that would bar Microsoft from making any Activision titles the FTC chooses exclusive to its consoles as well as its subscription and cloud-streaming services":