February 26, 2024

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Microsoft says China approves its plan to buy video game maker Activision Blizzard

Microsoft said on Friday that China has unconditionally approved its plan to buy video game company Activision Blizzard even as the deal continues to face antitrust opposition in the United States and the United Kingdom.

China’s approval is complicated by the fact that Activision Blizzard stopped offering many of its games in mainland China earlier this year due to a dispute with its local publishing partner.

China and the European Union are the two largest economies that have ratified Microsoft’s planned $69 billion acquisition of the California-based game publisher behind popular titles like World of Warcraft, Call of Duty and Candy Crush.

European regulators representing the 27-nation bloc approved the deal on Monday on the condition that Microsoft makes some promises aimed at boosting competition in the emerging cloud-based gaming market.

China’s state administration cleared it to regulate the market without conditions, according to Microsoft, though the agency’s website did not mention the decision until late Friday.

Game sales in China come with a requirement that game makers work with a Chinese publisher to release titles in the country. And since earlier this year, popular Activision Blizzard franchises like World of Warcraft, the StarCraft series, Overwatch and Diablo have been suspended due to a row between Activision subsidiary Blizzard Entertainment and its Chinese partner, NetEase.

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Blizzard has had a long-standing partnership with NetEase dating back to 2008, helping the latter company grow into the second largest game distributor in China after local rival Tencent.

But the US company said late last year that it would suspend most gaming services in China after existing licensing agreements expire, leading to a public spat between the two companies.