SAN FRANCISCO — Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told a judge Wednesday that his company’s proposed $69 billion takeover of video game-maker Activision Blizzard will be good for the gaming industry, remarks that came as he defended the deal against an attempt by federal regulators to block it.
Nadella took the witness stand in a San Francisco federal court and said his goal is to get Activision games on as many platforms as possible, much as Microsoft has with its traditional software products.
“I love their console games, I love their PC games and I particularly love their mobile games,” Nadella said. Microsoft doesn’t yet have much of a footprint in mobile gaming.
U.S. District Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley interjected to ask if Nadella plays Activision’s best-known mobile game, Candy Crush, and the CEO drew laughter from the courtroom when he said he does.
The exchange brought some levity to proceedings that are likely to make or break what would be the most expensive acquisition in technology history.
The hearing represents a major test of the FTC’s amped-up oversight of Big Tech under Chairperson Lina Khan, who has said U.S. regulators were too lenient in past deals that helped increase the power of companies such as Amazon, Google and Facebook. The courtroom tussle with Microsoft comes after the FTC took Facebook owner Meta Platforms to court in Silicon Valley to try to stop a takeover of a virtual reality fitness company only to be rebuffed by the judge in that case. Microsoft struck the deal 17 months ago in hopes of expanding its video game imprint beyond Xbox, which has about half the market share of the longtime industry leader Sony and its PlayStation device.
Nadella sought to assure the court that Microsoft has no interest in shutting out PlayStation by making popular Activision games exclusive to Microsoft’s own Xbox system.
The remarks were meant to undercut a key claim by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which argues the acquisition will harm competition.
Referencing Sony, Nadella said the PlayStation maker has defined the video game market as one focused on making premium games exclusive.
“I have no love for that world,” Nadella said.
“There should be no ambiguity in our support for the Sony platform,” he said, describing a conversation he had with Sony’s CEO shortly after the deal was announced.
Activision CEO Bobby Kotick also testified Wednesday, asserting that there’s no business incentive to deprive Microsoft gaming rivals like Sony of the popular Activision game Call of Duty, because such a move would alienate the franchise’s devoted fanbase.