A number of game companies have told UK regulator the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) that Microsoft's proposed Activision Blizzard might actually be a Very Good Thing for all involved.
The CMA has been investigating the proposed deal for months over concerns it could allow Microsoft to dominate rivals like Sony should it gain approval.
Earlier this year, the regulator shared its provisional findings, and suggested Microsoft would need to make concessions in order to seal the deal. It also reiterated its concerns that by purchasing Activision Blizzard, Microsoft could potentially make key franchises such as Call of Duty platform exclusive and potentially foreclose its rivals.
Microsoft and Sony have now responded to those findings as you'd expect. The latter says it wouldn't make any sense to make Call of Duty exclusive to Xbox, and points to the fact that, since the merger was announced, it has "focused on using the deal to bring more games to more people" by penning a series of partnerships with Nintendo, Nvidia, and others.
Long story short, Microsoft insists it wants to ensure Call of Duty remains on rival platforms, and once again described Sony's stance (hint: the PlayStation maker isn't keen on the merger) as a "self-serving attempt to protect its dominant market position."
In brief, Sony agreed with the provisional findings laid out by the CMA, and said it agrees with the regulator that the deal would "likely" result in a substantial lessening of competition in the UK game industry. "Microsoft would have both the ability and incentive to withhold or degrade access to Activision content, in particular Call of Duty, from its competitors. This, in turn, would cause harm to consumers and competition," wrote the company.
Naturally, Activision Blizzard backed its parent-company-to-be and said the CMA's provisional findings are not only "wrong," but in some instances based on misrepresented evidence obtained by the regulator.
"In sum, the provisional findings cannot be supported based on the extensive evidence before the CMA. The CMA’s findings are entirely unsubstantiated and must be revised to reflect the reality of Activision Blizzard’s position in respect of cloud gaming," concluded the U.S. publisher.
So, what do other game makers think?
The major players, however, weren't the only ones to weigh in on the mammoth $68.7 billion deal. Six other game devs have responded to the CMA's provisional findings, and largely expressed support for the deal. Notably, not a single one suggested the move would hamstring Sony or others within the industry.
4J Studios co-founder and chairman, Chris van der Kuyl, suggested the deal shown't be viewed as anything other than a "natural evolution of the industry." 4J has previously partners with Microsoft on several projects, but remains an independent studio.
Van der Kuyl added that it's inevitable that Microsoft needs to gain access to more content and talent to justify its continued investment in Xbox as a platform, but reiterated the deal doesn't give the studio "any cause for concern" where its own future opportunities are concerned.
The other respondents, who chose to remain anonymous, had other interesting takes. One company said it felt "compelled" to support the deal because it "found the arguments against this acquisition to be slightly exaggerated and our of proportion."
Another, presumably referring to Call of Duty, said it doesn't believe that any title can be considered a "must have" in the interactive entertainment market, and said given Microsoft's commitment to making certain games available on all platforms, it doesn't think the merger will negatively impact consumers.
The CEO of an independent studio that has worked with Sony, Microsoft, and Activision said they personally have found the Xbox maker to be trustworthy. "Microsoft always honor their contracts and obligations," they said, suggesting the company would make good on its pledge to ensure Call of Duty remains available on rival platforms for at least a decade.
One anonymous respondent said it would be hard to predict the "exact effects" of the merger, but said it doesn't expect the deal to "pose any risks to the distribution of our own games on Xbox or other consoles." Finally, another incognito respondent said the deal is actually "far more likely" to level the playing field between Xbox and PlayStation, before suggesting that such a paradigm shift is "sorely needed."
"PlayStation needs better competition to force the platform to up its game, and this will surely help to do that."
You can find links to all of those responses over on the CMA website. For the latest on Microsoft's ongoing battle to acquire Activision Blizzard, check out our regularly updated rundown.