The British Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has referred the acquisition of UK magazine publisher Highbury House by rival UK magazine giant Future Publishing to the Competition Commission. Highbury House includes Highbury Entertainment (nee Paragon Publishing), the last major publisher of video game magazines in the UK not owned by Future.
The Office of Fair Trading has decided that there are sufficient concerns that the combination of the largest supplier of computer games magazines in the UK with its largest competitor may be expected to lead to a substantial lessening of competition in the UK - essentially a monopoly-related concern.
Future Publishing, headquartered in Bath, owns many of the best-known game magazines in the UK, including Edge, Official UK PlayStation 2 Magazine, PC Gamer, and PC Format. It also has a U.S. division, Future Network USA, which includes Official Xbox Magazine, PSM, and PC Gamer in North America. Highbury Paragon only trades in the video game magazine market in the UK, and runs magazines including Edge competitor GamesTM, Play, and XBM.
The decision has come about after a 'reference test' which the OFT must make to the CC in any situation where it feels that a merger between any two companies will create a substantial lessening of competition within their market.
Certainly, if Future does successfully acquire Highbury, almost all game magazines published in the UK will be owned by the same company. With previous publishers in the video games market, such as EMAP and Dennis, selling up their concerns prior to this deal, it also seems unlikely that any new company will attempt to compete with Future.
The Competition Commission is expected to report its findings by September 28th, although this may be extended by up to eight weeks if extenuating circumstances exist.