Activision Blizzard vital to Microsoft’s app store business faces new federal scrutiny

Federal investigators are looking into game developer Activision Blizzard, which Microsoft has made essential to its App Store business plans.

Microsoft announced plans earlier this year to acquire Activision Blizzard for an estimated $68.7 billion, and the tech giant named the game developer in Microsoft’s new vision for its app business. Store.

The actions of Activision Blizzard staff prior to this public announcement caught the attention of the Biden administration.

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The US Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission’s interest in Activision Blizzard involves an apparent insider trading investigation, according to an Activision Blizzard regulatory filing on Friday.

“Activision Blizzard has received a voluntary request for information from the SEC and a grand jury subpoena from the DOJ, both of which appear to be related to their respective investigations into trading by third parties – including people known to the CEO of ‘Activision Blizzard – Securities Prior to Announcement of Proposed Transaction,’ Activision Blizzard’s regulatory filing said. “Activision Blizzard has notified these authorities that it intends to cooperate fully with these investigations.”

Along with the Justice Department and the SEC, a trio of Democratic senators have urged the Federal Trade Commission to also review Activision Blizzard. The senses. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Cory Booker of New Jersey wrote to FTC Chair Lina Khan last month urging her to consider the proposed acquisition.

The Democratic senators alleged that the proposed acquisition had “already hurt Activision Blizzard workers in their fight for stable employment and a safe work environment.”

Microsoft said its proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard is expected to be finalized in fiscal year 2023.

Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.

Previously, Microsoft released its view of its app store business involving Activision Blizzard in an effort to neutralize regulatory scrutiny. Microsoft President Brad Smith wrote on the company’s blog in March that its “Open App Store Principles” had been developed as it began seeking regulatory approval around the world for its deal. with Activision Blizzard.

“Our vision is to enable gamers to play any game on any device anywhere, including streaming from the cloud,” Smith said at the time. “App stores on the most relevant and popular everyday devices like mobile phones; PCs, including Windows PCs; and, ultimately, the cloud, are important to realizing this vision.

If the actions of the Justice Department, SEC, and FTC don’t affect Microsoft’s ability to meet its App Store goals, Congress and Microsoft’s big tech competitors might still have something to say.

Antitrust bills that would prevent big tech companies from favoring their own products and impose restrictions on certain app stores are pending in Congress. The Senate Judiciary Committee has advanced two antitrust proposals addressing these issues and the bills now await final consideration by the full Senate.

Microsoft’s principles outlined by Mr. Smith addressed issues involving self-preference, data and privacy and Microsoft called the principles “adapt before regulation”. Mr Smith said in the March blog post that there was “too much friction” between creators and players and app store policies were to blame for the tension.

Such regulation may be directed at large tech companies operating app stores, regardless of their future plans. Apple and Google have fought against US antitrust proposals aimed at diminishing their power.

Apple CEO Tim Cook last week slammed federal antitrust efforts aimed at reducing his App Store’s dominance in e-commerce, citing security issues that would leave iPhone users vulnerable to cyberattackers. .