That’s it, the publisher Activision Blizzard officially belongs to Microsoft. A historic takeover that upsets the balance of the video game market.
More than 20 months after the announcement, the acquisition of Activision Blizzard by Microsoft is now effective. The tech giant, and parent company of Xbox, is buying one of the largest video game publishers in the world for $68.7 billion. Here is the statement from Phil Spencer, boss of Microsoft Gaming, upon the announcement of the closing of the takeover.
Video games are our passion. We play games, we create them, and we can attest to how important video games are to each of us. Today we officially welcome Activision Blizzard and its teams to Xbox. Activision Blizzard is the publisher of some of the most played and beloved franchises in console, PC and mobile gaming history. From Pitfall to Call of Duty, from World of Warcraft to Overwatch, from Candy Crush Saga to Farm Heroes Super Saga, their studios have pushed the boundaries of video games for gamers around the world.
13 to 15 new studios
With this acquisition, Microsoft is integrating some 17,000 new employees who will join the more than 200,000 employees of the tech giant. For comparison, the acquisition of Zenimax Media (Bethesda) represented 2,300 new employees. We are therefore on a completely different scale. They are spread over the following 13 studios:
- Beachhead Studio;
- Blizzard Entertainment;
- Digital Legends;
- High Moon Studios;
- Infinity Ward;
- Radical Entertainment;
- Raven Software;
- Sledgehammer Games;
- Toys for Bob;
We could also cite the studio Vicarious Visions which merged with Blizzard Entertainment in 2022, after the announcement of the takeover, and the studio Proletariat bought by Blizzard in 2022.
They are added to the impressive galaxy of studios already owned by Microsoft.
Games: cult licenses
We talk a lot about Call of Dutybut Microsoft also gets its hands on many cult video game licenses like Crash Bandicoot, Warcraft, Diablo or Spyro. Here is the full list:
- Call of Duty;
- Candy Crush ;
- Crash Bandicoot;
- DJ Hero;
- Gabriel Knight;
- Geometry Wars;
- Guitar Hero;
- Heroes of the Storm;
- Interstate ’76;
- King’s Quest;
- Laura Bow Mysteries;
- The Lost Vikings;
- Quest for Glory;
- Solider of Fortune;
- Space Quest;
- Spyro the Dragon;
- Tenchu (legacy games);
- Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater;
- True Crime;
- World of Warcraft;
Among all these games, a return of the series Hexen was teased by Phil Spencer. When the buyout was announced, the franchises starcraft And Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater were explicitly mentioned. These are the licenses most likely to make a comeback under the aegis of the American giant. It should be noted that the game Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, developed by From Software and published by Activision in the West, is not part of this list. The franchise does not belong to Activision and remains the property of From Software.
Call of Duty is coming to all consoles
License Call of Duty was at the center of debates throughout the process of this takeover. Now owned by Microsoft, the very famous and lucrative video game franchise will be released on Nintendo Switch and will remain available on PlayStation consoles until 2033.
The Redmond firm signed a contract with Nintendo and Sony to guarantee access to games for competing consoles Call of Duty.
Cloud gaming goes to Ubisoft
That’s not all, Microsoft is also committed to making Activision Blizzard PC games available on several cloud gaming services such as Nvidia GeForce Now. Furthermore, the validation of the takeover by the European Union obliges Microsoft to offer European players free of charge Activision Blizzard games that they have purchased on competing cloud gaming platforms.
The firm also announced the resale of rights in perpetuity to all Activision Blizzard games since its creation and until 2038 to the publisher Ubisoft concerning streaming in cloud gaming. In other words, Ubisoft will have a lifetime right to Call of Duty 1, Warcraft 3 or Call of Duty Modern Warfarebut not on a possible Diablo 10 or Call of Duty 2039.
Outside the European Union, it is therefore Ubisoft which will be free to sell or not games such as Call of Duty to cloud gaming service publishers. Even Microsoft will be forced to request a contract with Ubisoft if the company wants to add Activision Blizzard games to Xbox Cloud Gaming. Ubisoft will have the right to require Microsoft to port Activision Blizzard games to Linux, or to emulation media such as Proton.
Immediately after the merger between Activision and Microsoft, Ubisoft announced the arrival of Activision Blizzard games in its Ubisoft+ service.
A challenge for employees
The acquisition of Activision Blizzard also has an impact on those who manufacture video games. Microsoft, in fact, had to open up to unionism after years of rejection. The CWA, Communications Workers of America, which represents the most workers in the sector, has signed a partnership with Microsoft to guarantee simplified unionization procedures within the company. QA employees (Quality Assurance) of Bethesda were able to set an example by creating a branch of 300 unionized employees in December 2022.
The takeover was provoked by weeks of scandals concerning the corporate culture within Activision Blizzard and the responsibility of boss Bobby Kotick in the matter. When announcing the acquisition, Microsoft committed to its communication to “ extend its culture of proactive inclusion to Activision Blizzard’s large teams “. As if not to leave a subject aside, the press release specified “ we also believe that creative success and autonomy go hand in hand with treating each person with dignity and respect. »
In a letter addressed to Activision Blizzard employees, Bobby Kotick clarifies his future within the group: “ I have long said that I am fully committed to contributing to the transition. Phil asked me to remain CEO of ABK, reporting to him, and we agreed that I would remain until the end of 2023. We both look forward to working together on a smooth integration for our teams and our players. “. In other words, Bobby Kotick should not immediately leave the company, but his departure seems envisaged as early as 2024.
Microsoft becomes number 3 in video games
During the trial with the FTC, we discovered that Microsoft had set itself the objective of becoming the leader in video games in 2030. With this acquisition, the American giant is taking a giant leap since it automatically becomes number 3 in the sector. thanks to the combined strengths of Xbox, Bethesda and Activision Blizzard.
It is thus placed behind Tencent Games, the Chinese giant often unknown to the general public and current leader in the video game industry, and Sony PlayStation.
What will Microsoft do with Activision Blizzard?
Failing to create strong new exclusives for its Xbox ecosystem, the acquisition of Activision Blizzard by Microsoft will above all give the publisher much higher revenues in video games in areas that the firm still has difficulty controlling. We think of mobile where Activision offers several successful titles like candy Crush Or Call of Duty Mobile. Microsoft would like to use this strength to push a new Xbox store on smartphones in competition with the Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store.
This acquisition should allow Microsoft to add a large part of Activision Blizzard’s lucrative catalog to Xbox Game Pass, and therefore significantly increase subscribers. The firm should in particular use World of Warcraft to generate appeal for the service on PC. The excellent Battle.net, which allows you to download and install Activision Blizzard games on PC, should also be used to offer a more robust Xbox Store. For the moment, Phil Spencer indicates in his press release: “aToday we begin work to bring legendary franchises from Activision, Blizzard, and King to Game Pass and other platforms. We’ll tell you more about when you can play it in the coming months. We know you’re excited, and so are we. » You will therefore have to be patient.