The Federal Trade Commission is reportedly opening an inquiry into Sony’s planned acquisition of Bungie, marking a notable ramp-up in federal oversight of gaming mergers during a period of major industry consolidation.
According to sources speaking with The Information, last week the FTC began seeking more information about the deal in an investigation that could potentially delay its closing by six months or even more. Though a closing date wasn’t announced alongside the initial announcement, The Information reports it could be pushed into early 2023.
The FTC is reportedly focused on concerns that Sony might be motivated to prevent competing companies and services, such as Xbox, from accessing Bungie’s games such as Destiny 2. That means examining how popular Destiny is, and whether a possible restriction would meaningfully harm Sony’s competitors and create antitrust violations. While Sony has publicly committed to keeping Bungie games cross-platform, its ability to restrict both current titles and future releases in the future is a point of antitrust concern.
This investigation represents another sign of the FTC’s recent, more aggressive approach toward potential antitrust issues in the gaming industry. While it is customary for the FTC to look into large deals, the spree of major gaming acquisition in recent years as well as the growing size of such deals appears to have prompted greater scrutiny, particularly under Biden-appointed FTC chair Lina Khan.
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For instance, in February, reports suggested that the FTC was similarly investigating the planned acquisition of Activision Blizzard by Microsoft to determine whether it would harm consumers, partners, or competitors. And Khan has stood at the head of a planned crackdown on merger guidelines, and has similarly pushed a block of a planned Nvidia acquisition and reopened an antitrust case against Meta.
The FTC’s investigation doesn’t necessarily mean the acquisition will be meaningfully impacted, especially given the immense legal challenge required to ultimately block a deal. However, the increased scrutiny on the gaming and tech sectors will likely remain a consideration in future acquisitions as more and more major companies express interest in adding to a growing pile of internal studios and the industry is further consolidated.
Update 4:08pm PT: Responding to an inquiry from IGN, the FTC declined to comment.
Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.