Call of Duty being banned in the UK 'cannot be ruled out', says expert
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Gamers in the UK are facing a worst-case scenario of having to do without the likes of Call of Duty, unless some sort of deal can square the circle of Microsoft's takeover of Activision Blizzard being blocked.
This hit a snag in April 2023 when the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) blocked the deal over fears that it could squash competition in the cloud gaming sector.
Pretty much everywhere else in the world has been alright with the deal going ahead, but a solution hasn't been found in the UK, and there could be dire consequences for gamers.
Microsoft are still intent on going for the deal and have appealed the decision, but if they don't get the green light in the UK and still want to push ahead with the deal, then the UK might lose access to games like Call of Duty.
"They would much, much rather reach some sort of compromise if that's possible," Deane explained, though he warned that there wasn't an easy way out for anyone involved if the appeal failed.
"At the end it comes down to a question of the importance of the UK market versus the importance of the deal as a whole to Microsoft and Activision."
"The UK market is pretty substantial, I think it's the fifth biggest games market in the world so it would be a pretty dramatic decision to pull out of that market."
A move like this would be pretty much unprecedented, so Deane said it was 'hard to see how it would actually work in practice'.
Nobody really wants it as an outcome and it's unprecedented, so it's hard to know exactly what a ban would look like, though it's hardly going to be a popular outcome for anyone involved.
However, Deane also said he'd be 'very surprised' if there wasn't 'some kind of contingency planning going on at Microsoft and Activision to at least figure out what that option would look like'.
Call of Duty getting banned in the UK would be unlikely, undesirable and unprecedented, but it's not so impossible that it can be taken off the table as a consequence of the clash between Microsoft and the CMA.
It's not just Call of Duty that could be cut off from the UK market if things went that far.
Activision Blizzard owns King, the developer and publisher responsible for mobile game Candy Crush, which Liam said could 'come as an even bigger shock' to gamers in the UK.
As for solutions to avoid this and find a way out of the situation, Microsoft's appeal against the CMA is due to be heard in July, with a verdict expected in either August or September.
If that doesn't work, then there are no easy outcomes. Deane laid out that, while it was 'hard to see any of the options exist', it would mean 'something awkward or unprecedented is going to happen somewhere'.
Whatever happens something's got to give.