FTC Should Examine Microsoft-Activision Deal, Consumer, Labor, Repair Groups Say

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Microsoft’s proposed purchase of Activision-Blizzard raises serious red flags, Public Citizen, the Center for Digital Democracy, the Repair Association, the Communications Workers of America, and 11 additional groups said today in a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The merger could give Microsoft an unfair amount of market power, threaten data privacy and security, limit consumers’ and independent business’ right to repair game consoles, and lead to union busting and wage suppression, the groups said.

“If the FTC clears this merger, Microsoft will become the third largest gaming company in the world,” the letter reads. “The proposed merger fits an alarming pattern of concentration in the gaming industry over the past several years. Microsoft’s expanding role in the gaming market may result in the company using its leverage to raise subscription prices and limit options, among other possible consumer harms.”

In January, Microsoft announced its deal to buy game publisher and developer Activision-Blizzard, subject to FTC approval. Activision is a titan of the gaming world, boasting 400 million monthly active users and incredibly popular titles like Call of Duty. Microsoft already is a major player in gaming as a hardware producer, platform provider, and game distributor. Combining the two companies could lessen competition in a market that’s seen a rash of consolidation in recent years.

Workers at Activision have mobilized over the past year to shine a light on an abusive workplace culture. Now, as these workers seek to form a union to address their collective interests, the potential takeover by Microsoft threatens to further undermine workers’ rights and suppress wages.

Microsoft’s move also has negative implications for data privacy and surveillance advertising. Adding Activision’s roster of game titles opens opportunities for advanced data collection, including the use of AI, influencers, neuromarketing, and other practices now used for its gaming operations.

Additionally, the merger could strengthen Microsoft’s power to impinge on consumers’ right to repair their own video game equipment or to have it repaired by a service provider of their choice. Microsoft’s Xbox platform is already notoriously difficult to independently repair.

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