Dec 20, 2022 - Technology

Group of gamers sues to block Microsoft-Activision deal

Video game screenshot of a soldier rappelling down a skyscraper at night

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Screenshot: Activision Blizard

It's not just the government on Microsoft and Activision's case these days. A group of 10 gamers filed a private antitrust lawsuit in California Tuesday to attempt to stop Microsoft from buying Activision Blizzard.

Why it matters: While the case doesn't have close to the muscle of the Federal Trade Commission's recent lawsuit to block the merger, it's a sign of just how annoyed some players are with the planned deal.

Details: The gamers' suit alleges that the merger would violate the Clayton Antitrust Act, reducing competition in the gaming sector and by extension harminf the public.

  • It states that the deal "may cause loss to the Plaintiffs, and the public at large, in the form of higher prices, less innovation, less creativity, less consumer choice, decreased output, and other potential anticompetitive effects, which deprive the Plaintiff s, and the public at large, of the salutary benefits of competition."
  • The 10 gamers are based in California, New Jersey and New Mexico.
  • The suit lists their gaming platforms of choice. Most don't use a Microsoft Xbox, and several only play on Sony PlayStations.
  • Plaintiffs are asking a U.S. court to block the deal, nullify the break-up fee and pay their legal costs.

Between the lines: The public can challenge mergers, but they rarely add to a government's case, Daniel Crane, an antitrust expert and professor at the University of Michigan Law School, tells Axios.

  • "Here, the FTC has already sued to block Microsoft/Activision, so I’m frankly not sure why these gamers are spending the money to bring a suit themselves." 

The big picture: Microsoft and Activision Blizzard are facing intense scrutiny of the deal from regulators in the U.S., U.K. and E.U., which have all criticized its potential impact on Microsoft's rivalry with PlayStation.

  • Microsoft has rejected that reasoning, saying it would not deprive PlayStation or any other competitors of Activision's marquee Call of Duty franchise. Even if it did, Microsoft has argued, Sony would be able to compete.

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