The FTC will be looking at Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard, if they challenge making newly acquired properties exclusive—an Activision VP appears to be dissuading staff to unionize.
While the world was shocked by Microsoft’s deal to acquire gaming giant Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion, there are still a lot of logistics to seal this massive merger. Since a big game franchise like the Call of Duty games would fall under Microsoft’s banner, the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) wants to oversee and review how the deal will go through without putting harsh restrictions on the competition. Meanwhile, an Activision executive had their message leaked from an internal Slack channel that essentially stated that Raven Software staff joining a union would affect game quality.
Typically, the U.S. Justice Department would head investigations like this, but the FTC is just as tough as it operates directly under the Biden administration. The FTC was in charge of the antitrust investigation of Lockheed Martin purchase of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings of $4.4 billion. Most recently, the FTC was the one who blocked Nvidia’s acquisition of Arm.
The FTC Chair, Lina Khan, has spearheaded and pushed for more aggressive approaches to tech companies because she said these companies are able to use their dominance in one sector to devour others. Microsoft has stated they will continue to make “some” Activision Blizzard games for PlayStation consoles even after the takeover. The Xbox CEO, Phil Spencer, even shared that “it’s not our intent to pull communities away from that platform.”
This deal will be thoroughly examined well into 2023 as franchises like Warcraft, Overwatch, Crash Bandicoot, Guitar Hero and more will be under Microsoft and Xbox’s new ownership. UK regulators have already seen Microsoft’s tactics with their auto-renew subscriptions, so it looks as though Microsoft is flexible in working with any and all investigations they need in order to make things work for everyone as it stands.
As a problem begins on one side, trouble stirs on another as Raven Software employees have looked to unionize with the Communication Workers of America (CWA). Activision had already refused to recognize the union and now the vice president of Quality Assurance, Christian Arends, made an internal posting that was attempting to convince their staff not to unionize. Arends’ reasoning was that “a union doesn’t do anything to help us produce world-class games, and the bargaining process is not typically quick, often reduces flexibility, and can be adversarial and lead to negative publicity.”
The Game Workers Alliance, which currently has 34 members, has asked Activision Blizzard to recognize the union. This would be the first union at a major North American game development studio. The statistics already say a lot, as a CWA spokesperson shared with Polygon that 78% of eligible QA workers at Raven Software are in support of unionization. Here is the tweet of the message shared by the founder of the Activision Blizzard employee group, A Better ABK, Jessica Gonzalez:
This dispute began last November when Activision told 12 QA workers at Raven Software they would be let go, even though they had not been showing signs of poor performance. The staff members only had 40 members and this would increase the workload for the remaining staff, which is why they have been on strike for months. Every dispute with Activision Blizzard and Bobby Kotick will hopefully be settled as the Microsoft takeover makes its slow and steady pace to seal the deal.