Activision Blizzard Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Record Sales but Expenses Soar

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    Activision Blizzard $ATVI provides additional NetEase $NTES details; reaffirms Q4 guidance

    US gaming giant Blizzard Entertainment will suspend most of its services in China from January, the company said Thursday, after it failed to reach a licensing deal with local firm NetEase.

    Producer of some of the best-known titles in video gaming, including “World of Warcraft” and “Overwatch”, Blizzard has operated since 2008 in China—the world’s biggest gaming market. But the firm said it had failed to reach an agreement with Chinese publisher NetEase over an extension to their 14-year partnership.

    “We will suspend new sales in the coming days and Chinese players will be receiving details of how this will work soon,” Blizzard Entertainment, a subsidiary of California-based Activision Blizzard, said in a statement.

    Microsoft in January offered to buy Activision Blizzard for $69 billion, but the deal has yet to be finalised as anti-trust authorities examine it.

    Negotiations with NetEase fell apart, the company said, after the two sides failed to strike a deal that is “consistent with Blizzard’s operating principles and commitments to players and employees”. It did not share further details.

    Foreign companies require a license with Chinese publishers in order to sell their games.

    Activision Blizzard, for example, distributes its “Call of Duty” franchise through Tencent, the worlds’ biggest gaming company by revenue.

    The break-up comes as Chinese gaming giants are expanding abroad, buying promising studios or expanding their ownership in major publishers in Europe.

    ‘Love and support’

    Analysts said that the row with NetEase did not mean that Blizzard was leaving China and that the company was expected to find new ways to stay in the market, including through a possible tie-up with Tencent.

    “It’s worth noting that this isn’t the first time that Blizzard has done something like this in China,” said Daniel Ahmad, a senior analyst at Niko Partners.

    Before working with NetEase, Blizzard had a similar deal with a company called The9, before ending the partnership.

    Ahmad said the news was reverberating across the gaming world in China and was a trending topic on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter.

    Reactions poured in from gamers who were born in the 80s or 90s that grew up playing Blizzard video games as well as younger ones who had discovered the company on mobile, said Ahmad.

    Blizzard thanked local players for their “love and support”, saying it “sincerely looked forward to bringing Blizzard games back to you in the future”.

    Upcoming releases for “World of Warcraft: Dragonflight”, “Hearthstone: March of the Lich King”, and season two of “Overwatch 2” will go ahead later this year, the company added.

    NetEase’s Hong Kong-listed shares fell more than 9 percent on Thursday.

    The Chinese gaming giant said the expiration of the licenses would have “no material impact on NetEase’s financial results”, in a stock exchange filing Thursday.


    Activision Lower after a Politico report indicated the FTC may file an antitrust lawsuit to block Microsoft’s $MSFT acquisition of Activision.

    $ATVI 73.90, -2.69, -3.5%


    Video game publisher Activision Blizzard reported better than expected fourth quarter earnings after the close Monday and updated on a pending acquisi
    [See the full post at: Activision Blizzard Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Record Sales but Expenses Soar]


    Activision $ATVI 85.04, +5.36, +6.7% up after U.K.’s CMA narrowed scope of concerns for Microsoft’s $MSFT 276.10, -1.56, -0.6% acquisition.


    Activision Blizzard (ATVI 78.04, -8.70, -10.0%):

    UK CMA says Microsoft (MSFT) acquisition of ATVI would “substantially weaken competition in this important growing market”; UK CMA blocks deal; ATVI will appeal decision; says company will reassess growth plans in the UK; says the UK is “clearly closed for business,” according to CNBC


    EU Approval for Microsoft’s $69 Billion Activision Deal

    – EC said its own analysis showed deal wouldn’t hurt competition after $MSFT vowed to let cloud rivals offer blockbuster titles such as Call of Duty on their own platforms for 10 years.

    Microsoft Corp.’s $69 billion takeover of Activision Blizzard Inc. won European Union approval, just weeks after the UK’s merger regulator delivered a shock decision to veto the gaming industry’s biggest ever deal.

    The European Commission said its own analysis showed the deal wouldn’t hurt competition after Microsoft vowed to let cloud rivals offer blockbuster titles such as Call of Duty on their own platforms for 10 years.

    EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager on Monday described the deal as “pro-competitive” and that it would “kickstart” the cloud streaming market, which represents just 1% to 3% of the entire gaming market.

    The EU’s blessing flies in the face of negative decisions by Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority, which last month showcased its post-Brexit emergence as a global watchdog, and the US Federal Trade Commission, which sought to block the deal last year.

    The EU’s Vestager said the difference in conclusions between EU and UK regulators centered on how quickly the cloud gaming market would develop in the future.

    “We agree that the cloud streaming market is a promising market. We may disagree about the speed at which it will develop,” Vestager said, adding that the EU sees a longer development period for cloud gaming than the UK.

    Read More: Microsoft’s Activision Deal Chances Evaporate After UK Blow

    While the EU decision offers a glimmer of hope, “it probably doesn’t change much” for Microsoft’s chances of success in legal challenges to the FTC and CMA, according to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Jennifer Rie.

    That’s “because each jurisdiction has made its decision based on the market conditions in their own region,” she said. “These conditions may differ, which can lead to a different conclusion on the antitrust impact of a deal.”

    The European Commission defended its findings, saying that the commitments will empower millions of European consumers “to stream Activision’s games using any cloud gaming services” operating in the EU region.

    “The commitments will unlock significant benefits for competition and consumers, by bringing Activision’s games to new platforms, including smaller EU players, and to more devices than before,” a statement from the commission said.

    By contrast, the CMA said that the deal would reinforce Microsoft’s advantage in the cloud gaming market by giving it control over a number of leading games also including Overwatch and World of Warcraft. The UK watchdog found that without the merger Activision would be able to start providing games on cloud platforms in the future.


    Microsoft Can Close Its $75 Billion Buy of Activision Blizzard, Judge Rules

    Microsoft can close its $75 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard, a federal judge ruled Tuesday, delivering a major setback to the Biden administration’s attempt to rein in big mergers.

    The deal would combine Microsoft’s Xbox videogaming business with the publisher of popular franchises such as Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and Candy Crush. The ruling means there is no current U.S. obstacle to the two companies merging; the companies are still seeking U.K. approval.

    U.S. District Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley said in her opinion that the FTC hadn’t shown that Microsoft’s ownership of Activision games would hurt competition in the console or cloud-gaming markets. “To the contrary, the record evidence points to more consumer access to Call of Duty and other Activision content,” she wrote.

    The Federal Trade Commission had sought an injunction to prevent the two companies from completing their megadeal before the agency began a separate process to challenge it in August.

    Microsoft shares were down around 1% after the ruling Tuesday while Activision shares rose about 10%.

    The FTC can appeal the ruling, although that is uncommon for the agency. It also can continue with its challenge to block the deal. An FTC spokesman said the agency was disappointed by the decision and would announce its next steps in the coming days.

    Activision Chief Executive Bobby Kotick said in a statement that the merger will benefit consumers and workers.

    “It will enable competition rather than allow entrenched market leaders to continue to dominate our rapidly growing industry,” he said.

    In its suit, the FTC alleges that the deal would give Microsoft the ability to control how consumers beyond users of its own Xbox consoles and subscription services access Activision’s games. Microsoft has argued the deal is good for gamers and for competition.

    Courts issue injunctions when a judge believes the plaintiff is likely to prevail in the case. After losing a similar injunction request on a separate acquisition earlier this year, the FTC abandoned its effort to stop a Meta Platforms deal.


    Microsoft $MSFT 345.46, +0.22, +0.1%):

    Microsoft & PlayStation $SONY signed a binding agreement to keep #CallofDuty on PlayStation following the acquisition of Activision Blizzard;

    – Microsoft will face EU competition investigation, according to FT


    Activision Blizzard $ATVI 93.59, +3.52, +3.9%

    US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejects FTC appeal to uphold block on Microsoft (MSFT) acquisition of Activision (ATVI)


    Microsoft (MSFT 329.72, -1.44, -0.4%):

    The new deal for Microsoft (MSFT) to buy Activision Blizzard (ATVI) without cloud gaming rights has been cleared by UK CMA

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