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Microsoft says it offered FTC a consent decree on ‘Call of Duty’ games

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Microsoft President Brad Smith said on Tuesday the company had offered to sign a legally-binding consent decree with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to provide “Call of Duty” games to rivals including Sony and others for a decade.

The rejected offer, Smith said, was made just before the FTC sued Microsoft last week in an attempt to block the tech giant’s $69-billion takeover bid for video game publisher Activision Blizzard Inc.

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The deal has drawn criticism from Sony, maker of the PlayStation console, citing concerns Xbox maker Microsoft would gain control of games such as the “Call of Duty” series and make them exclusive to Microsoft devices. Microsoft has rejected the concerns, saying it would not make financial sense to shut out users on competing devices.

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Smith, speaking during Microsoft’s annual shareholder meeting, said he was disappointed the FTC did not take more time to consider the consent decree proposal before suing.

The FTC declined to comment on Smith’s remarks but said generally that it is always willing to consider proposals.

In a move to blunt criticism, Microsoft this month entered into a 10-year commitment to bring “Call of Duty” to Nintendo platforms. The company made the same offer to Sony.

The FTC lawsuit threw a stumbling block in front of the tech giant’s plans to rapidly expand its portfolio of popular games and catch up to bigger rivals.

The deal is also facing scrutiny outside the United States. The European Union in November opened a full-scale investigation, while the EU competition watchdog said it would decide by March 23, 2023, whether to clear or block the deal.

Britain’s antitrust regulator said in September it would launch a full-scale probe. (Reporting by Tiyashi Datta in Bengaluru, Diane Bartz in Washington and Paresh Dave in San Francisco; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Lincoln Feast.)

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