Activision CEO says gamers would ‘revolt’ if ‘Call of Duty’ were made exclusive


By Greg Bensinger and Diane Bartz

SAN FRANCISCO/WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick told a judge on Wednesday that if Microsoft bought his company and blocked other gaming platforms from offering his blockbuster “Call of Duty,” it would alienate many of the 100 million people who play the game monthly and hurt its popularity.

“You would have a revolt if you were to remove the game from one platform,” said Kotick in testimony aimed at showing why Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley in San Francisco should allow the $69 billion deal to go forward.

The acquisition is facing government pushback in part over concerns that Microsoft may make the popular game exclusive to its Xbox console or otherwise limit its distribution. Kotick on Wednesday attempted to calm those fears, saying it is vital to offer the game across multiple platforms, including consoles, mobile phones and personal computers.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella was scheduled to testify on Wednesday afternoon.

The Federal Trade Commission has asked a judge to stop the Microsoft acquisition temporarily in order to allow the agency’s in-house judge to decide the case. In the past, the side that lost in federal court often conceded and the in-house process was scrapped.

The FTC, which enforces antitrust law, has taken a harder line on mergers during the Biden administration. The agency says the transaction would give Microsoft, which makes the Xbox console, exclusive access to Activision games, leaving Nintendo and Sony Group out in the cold.

Much of the testimony in the trial has focused on Activision’s “Call of Duty,” one of the best-selling videogames of all time.

Kotick argued there was no incentive for Microsoft, if it closes the deal for Activision, to restrict who offers the company’s games. For example, he said that removing “Call of Duty” from PlayStation, which is made by Sony Group, would be “very detrimental” to Activision’s business.

He also acknowledged that the deal, which he said earlier on Wednesday he wants “very much” to close, would result in his personal shares being valued at over $400 million.

To address these concerns, Microsoft has agreed to license “Call of Duty” to rivals. It has also argued that it is better off financially by licensing the games to all comers.

The deal has won approval from many jurisdictions but has been opposed by the FTC in the United States and Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority.

(Reporting by Diane Bartz in Washington and Greg Bensinger in San FranciscoEditing by Matthew Lewis)

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