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Saudi Arabia voices "no objection" to Microsoft's Activision Blizzard acquisition

Saudi Arabia's General Authority for Competition is the first regulatory body to approve the $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard by Microsoft.

Microsoft's $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard has been under review by global regulatory agencies around the globe, and now one of those agencies has voiced its intent to let the acquisition proceed. That agency is Saudi Arabia's General Authority for Competition.

The announcement from the GAC was spotted by Twitter user Klobrille. A translated version of the announcement states that the agency "declares that it has no objection to completing the process of economic concentration between Microsoft Corporation [and] Activision Blizzard, Inc."

The GAC did not provide any other details on what elements of the merger it chose to review.

Microsoft's courtship of global regulatory agencies has become the subject of scrutiny after Sony chose to voice objections to the merger through Brazil's regulatory process. In that process, the PlayStation platform-owner stated that Microsoft's ownership of Call of Duty would give it "an unfair advantage" in the video game market.

Microsoft would later rebuff those claims, partly by arguing that Sony already enjoyed market dominance during the PlayStation 4/Xbox One console generation.

Increased video game business in Saudi Arabia

Brazil and Saudi Arabia are both burgeoning markets in the video game industry, but for different reasons. Brazil's increased smartphone adoption has made it a growing market for game developers. Saudi Arabia (and in particular, the Saudi Arabian government) has become a new source of venture capital for companies like SNK, Embracer Group, Nintendo, and beyond.

The Saudi Arabian government has made many these investments through its Public Investment Fund (PIF). The PIF has also secured financial footing in the world of esports through Savvy Gaming Group and its purchases of organizations like ESL and FACEIT.

Those investments haven't come without controversy. The PIF is chaired by the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed Bin Salman. Salman was directly implicated in the assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Critics have also decried Saudi Arabia's treatment of women, LGBTQ people, and dissidents within the country. 

It would be surprising if Saudi Arabia voiced any objections to the acquisition. The regulatory bodies voicing the most scrutiny over the deal have tended to either be worker-focused organizations like the Communication Workers of America (which recently withdrew its criticism), or the US Federal Trade Commission, which has signaled its intent to reign in tech industry conglomeration

Government agencies in the EU and UK are also looking into the deal.

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