Microsoft has agreed to acquire Activision Blizzard in “an all-cash transaction valued at $68.7 billion”. If approved, the deal would give ‘Team Xbox’ full ownership of iconic IPs such as Call of Duty, Warcraft, Diablo, and many more, and grow its head count by almost 10,000.
The story first broke at the Wall Street Journal and was followed by a corroboration at Bloomberg’s The Terminal. Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer has since confirmed the acquisition himself on the Xbox Blog.
“It is incredibly exciting to announce that Microsoft has agreed to acquire Activision Blizzard,” Spencer writes. “We will offer as many Activision Blizzard games as we can within Xbox Game Pass and PC Game Pass, both new titles and games from Activision Blizzard’s incredible catalogue. We also announced today that Game Pass now has more than 25 million subscribers. The fantastic franchises across Activision Blizzard will also accelerate our plans for Cloud Gaming, allowing more people in more places around the world to participate in the Xbox community.”
The Microsoft news centre has its own version of the announcement with a statement from CEO Satya Nadella, as does Activision Blizzard’s news room with a statement from CEO Bobby Kotick. Among the additional details to be gleaned in these statements is that Kotick will remain in post, at least for now, despite the ongoing lawsuit concerning workplace discrimination and harassment at Activision Blizzard. You can catch up on all of those developments in our explainer story.
Microsoft says it intends to use the acquisition to “provide building blocks for the metaverse” and emphasises its value in mobile gaming – Activision Blizzard also owns King, a major developer of mobile games, most notably Candy Crush.
Today is a historic moment. We are excited to announce that the world-renowned franchises and talented people at @ATVI_AB will be joining Team Xbox!
— Xbox (@Xbox) January 18, 2022
It’s hard to overstate the impact of this acquisition. We all thought we’d seen the biggest such deal in our lifetimes when Microsoft bought ZeniMax Media, owner of Bethesda, for $7.5bn in 2020, but this is truly seismic. Activision Blizzard is among the very biggest videogame publisher-developers in the world, owns some of the most lucrative franchises in gaming, and boasts a global headcount of almost 10,000 staff.
Indeed, the implications for the game industry are so vast that this raises questions about fair competition. The deal is still subject to regulatory approval, which it may or may not receive under US anti-trust laws. Kotick’s statement says “transactions like these can take a long time to complete. Until we receive all the necessary regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions are satisfied, which we expect to be sometime in Microsoft’s fiscal 2023 year ending June 30, 2023, we will continue to operate completely autonomously.”