Can Big Tech get bigger? Microsoft is urging governments to say yes.

In recent weeks, Microsoft has accused Sony, its main gaming rival, of misleading regulators. His lawyers showed games consoles, including an Xbox, to British officials. And the president of a major union that Microsoft courted spoke on behalf of the company before the Federal Trade Commission.

The actions are part of a campaign by Microsoft to counter heightened scrutiny of its $69 billion acquisition of video game maker Activision Blizzard, the biggest consumer tech deal since AOL bought Time Warner two decades ago, and far bigger than Elon Musk’s recent $44 billion takeover of Twitter.

Microsoft’s goal is simple: persuade skeptical governments around the world to approve the blockbuster takeover. Sixteen governments must approve the purchase, putting Microsoft under the greatest regulatory pressure it has faced since the antitrust battles of the 1990s. And in three key places – the United States, the European Union and Britain – Regulators have begun in-depth reviews, with the European Commission saying this month it was opening an in-depth investigation into the deal.

Whether Microsoft succeeds in obtaining regulatory approval to buy Activision, which makes games such as Candy Crush and Call of Duty, will send a message about Big Tech’s ability to grow in the face of growing fears that industry giants are wielding. too much power. If Microsoft, whose public affairs operation has spent the past decade building a reputation as the company’s nice guy, can’t get a mega deal done, can anyone?

“If this deal had happened four years ago, it wouldn’t matter much,” Microsoft president Brad Smith said in an interview. “If someone can’t do something easy, then we all know you can’t do something hard.”

Google, Meta, Amazon and Apple have all been increasingly accused of being monopolies, and regulators have tried to block some of their small transactions. In July, the FTC sued Meta, Facebook’s parent company, to stop it from buying Within, a virtual reality startup. Last month Britain forced Meta to sell Giphy, an image database it bought in 2020 for $315 million.

At the heart of regulators’ concerns about the Activision deal is whether it violates antitrust laws by giving Microsoft outsized power in the video game industry. They fear Microsoft could drive Activision’s games away from competitors like Sony or use them to gain an unfair head start as more games stream online.

Mr. Smith said Microsoft was willing to formally agree to impose limits on its business practices to address antitrust issues. But the United States and other countries see more and more these promises are insufficient unless a company divests part of its activities.

Microsoft’s deal for Activision will demonstrate whether tech giants can navigate the new environment, said former FTC Chairman William E. Kovacic. “It’s a fundamental test,” he said.

ImageMicrosoft Chairman Brad Smith at the White House in May 2020.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

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