Microsoft has confirmed reports first made by the Wall Street Journal that it will be acquiring Activision Blizzard. The deal isn’t expected to be finalised until next year, but when it does it will set back the Xbox manufacturer close to $70bn. It will be by quite some margin the largest acquisition in videogaming to date. (Take-Two’s recent $12.7bn buyout of Zynga now ranks a distant second.)
As part of the deal Microsoft will control such studios as Blizzard, Infinity Ward, Treyarch, Sledgehammer Games, Toys For Bob, Raven Software, Beenox, High Moon Studios, Digital Legends, Radical Entertainment, Demonware, as well as mobile behemoth King, Major League Gaming, bought by Activision Blizzard in 2016, is also part of the deal.
As well as Call of Duty, Spyro and all the Blizzard franchises (Warcraft, Hearthstone, Diablo, Overwatch and Starcraft), Microsoft will inherit the ongoing issue of workplace toxicity that has blighted Activision Blizzard for close to a year. Head of Xbox Phil Spencer (to whom the embattled Actiblizz CEO Bobby Kotick will one day report), was highly critical of allegations surrounding Kotick that surfaced last year, saying that Microsoft was in the process of evaluating its relationship with Activision Blizzard. It would appear that period of “proactive adjustment” has concluded.
Assuming the deal goes ahead as planned, there are many questions to be answered. Will Bobby Kotick remain at the organisation he’s now fronted for more than 30 years? What among the current and future Activision Blizzard games line up will join Game Pass and when? Meanwhile, in the wake of last year’s Zenimax acquisition, no doubt Sony will be wondering what this means for Call of Duty and other titles that have arguably worked more in its favour than they have for Microsoft. When we have those answers, we’ll pass them along.