Microsoft have shocked the gaming world with a planned buyout of Activision Blizzard for a reported $70 billion, following a difficult period for the developer’s leadership.
- Microsoft to acquire Activision’s large portfolio of video game developer studios, bringing the likes of Call of Duty, Overwatch, and World of Warcraft under their umbrella by June 2023.
- Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick tells employees in an internal email that he intends to stay in his current role for the foreseeable future.
- Conflicting reports suggest Kotick will leave the post once the acquisition has been finalized, with a potential payout of nearly $300 million if he’s axed.
This news comes in the aftermath of Activision Blizzard being hit by multiple lawsuits after allegations were made regarding their workplace environment which led to company walkouts and a drop in share prices.
Bloomberg reporter Jason Schreier shared some information about the shock deal on January 17, citing a report from the Wall Street Journal. Bloomberg states the landmark acquisition values Blizzard at $70 billion.
He said: “The WSJ reports that Microsoft is buying Activision Blizzard, the troubled publisher behind Call of Duty and World of Warcraft, which has been facing crisis over the last year following numerous reports of sexual misconduct and discrimination.”
BREAKING: The WSJ reports that Microsoft is buying Activision Blizzard, the troubled publisher behind Call of Duty and World of Warcraft, which has been facing crisis over the last year following numerous reports of sexual misconduct and discrimination. A seismic gaming deal
— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) January 18, 2022
The “seismic gaming deal”, as Jason puts it, represents a massive power shift in the industry.
Microsoft confirms Activision Blizzard takeover
Soon after, Microsoft confirmed the deal and the company’s ambitions.
On their official website, the company stated: “Today, Microsoft Corp. announced plans to acquire Activision Blizzard Inc., a leader in game development and interactive entertainment content publisher.
“This acquisition will accelerate the growth in Microsoft’s gaming business across mobile, PC, console, and cloud and will provide building blocks for the metaverse.”
Satya Nadella, Chairman and CEO of the Microsoft Corporation, said this marks “a new era” in gaming to make it “safe, inclusive, and accessible to all”.
— Satya Nadella (@satyanadella) January 18, 2022
Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard, confirmed the takeover will be completed in June 2023.
The statement from Microsoft continues: “When the transaction closes, Microsoft will become the world’s third-largest gaming company by revenue, behind Tencent and Sony. The planned acquisition includes iconic franchises from the Activision, Blizzard and King studios like Warcraft, Diablo, Overwatch, Call of Duty and Candy Crush, in addition to global esports activities through Major League Gaming. The company has studios around the word with nearly 10,000 employees.”
Xbox Game Pass has been a huge beneficiary of games from Bethesda since Microsoft bought the publisher in March 2021.
“Gaming is the most dynamic and exciting category in entertainment across all platforms today and will play a key role in the development of metaverse platforms,” said Nadella.
“We’re investing deeply in world-class content, community and the cloud to usher in a new era of gaming that puts players and creators first and makes gaming safe, inclusive and accessible to all.”
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Bobby Kotick responds to Microsoft buyout
CEO Bobby Kotick shared the following email with Blizzard employees on January 18.
It reads: “Today is an incredibly exciting day. As we continue our journey to connect and engage the world though epic entertainment, we will eventually do so as part of Microsoft.
“I am certain that our incredible talent and extraordinary games combined with our shared commitment to the very best workplace will enable us to grow in an increasingly more competitive race for leadership as gaming through the metaverse evolves.”
Explaining why Microsoft was the ideal suitor, he added: “In considering possible partners, all roads ultimately lead to Microsoft. Like us, they have been making games for a long time. Microsoft has already distributed games to hundreds of millions of the world’s computers and computing devices and has technologies and innovation that will support the next generation of games.”
Is Kotick leaving Activision Blizzard?
Included in the email, sent out across the company, Kotick reaffirmed his commitment to Activision Blizzard.
“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.
He concluded: “I will continue as our CEO with the same passion and enthusiasm I had when I began this amazing journey in 1991.”
With that being said, conflicting reports have emerged, with The Wall Street Journal claiming the chief will be leaving his post once the deal is finalized in June 2023.
According to Activision documents, courtesy of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Kotick could earn anything up to $292,970,341 if he’s removed from his position at the end of that term.
Fans of several franchises will be wondering – now that this deal has gone through – if their ability play Overwatch, World of Warcraft, and other games will be affected in the future.
Phil Spencer opens up on future Xbox exclusivity
The Xbox boss was relatively coy about the speculation surrounding Bethesda’s well-known franchise titles when they completed that acquisition, and since that time the likes of Starfield and Arkane’s Redfall have been confirmed as Xbox exclusives.
Avid fans of Overwatch, Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, and others are now thinking the same could happen to their beloved games.
Phil Spencer has commented on the possibility, in a chat with Bloomberg. He told them: “I’ll just say to players out there who are playing Activision Blizzard games on Sony’s platform: It’s not our intent to pull communities away from that platform and we remained committed to that.”
While that sounds reassuring for PlayStation players, it in no way rules out the possibility of these hitting the Xbox Game Pass in the future.