Last year, I joked that the problem Microsoft brought to video game analysts was that it might decide to buy the moon at any time, suddenly disrupting the whole industry.
On Tuesday morning, Microsoft announced its acquisition of Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion. This pending transaction has not had such an impact, but it is not far away.
Through the acquisition of Activision Blizzard, Microsoft once again won the most eye-catching franchise in the history of video games, including call of duty, candy crush, world of Warcraft, Diablo and StarCraft. In the short history of video games, there is almost no precedent for this kind of thing.
The biggest name on Activision Blizzard’s list is undoubtedly “call of duty”, which is a series of military themed first person shooting games. Through alternate production among multiple studios, Activision has been able to release a new call of duty every year since 2005. Since 2007, each new version of call of duty has achieved reliable success.
Despite the general comments, call of Duty: Vanguard, the 18th in the series, was the best-selling game last year, while the previous Black Ops – cold war ranked second.
In order to maintain the annual release schedule of call of duty, Activision has gradually established an internal development studio network, including some top talents in the field of modern action games. These include the call of Duty series, which began in 2003; Raven software (heresy, singularity); And sledgehammer.
When Microsoft acquired Bethesda in 2020, it added most of the best brands and developers to modern first person shooters and put them under the Xbox platform. At present, only one company owns halo, doom, overwatch and call of duty. It is possible to have a shared talent pool for cross pollination.
For customers, this may seem like a good deal at first. Microsoft has announced that it plans to add multiple Activision Blizzard versions to its game pass subscription service, which has more than 25 million users recently. Activision alone has 40 years of hits, and it can put these hits on the game pass even before it breaks into call of duty. Bring the singularity back, you cowards
However, like Microsoft’s last major video game acquisition, this raises some disturbing problems in terms of integration. By acquiring Activision Blizzard, Microsoft once again captured one of the world’s largest independent developers and made it the first-party Xbox studio.
Considering the possibilities it provides, for example, Xbox’s answer to Super Smash Brothers, where the CEO can fight against the heroes in overwatch (yes, I’m still discussing this issue), Microsoft also directly controls another large part of the modern game industry. This is not a complete monopoly, but the question worth mentioning is: when a company controls so much space at the same time, is this really the best choice for video games and game players?
Activision Blizzard is a holding company established in 2008, which is formed by the merger of independent developer Activision (located in Santa Monica, California) and the parent company Vivendi games of Blizzard Entertainment in Irvine, California.
For typical consumers, the two parts of Activision Blizzard operate independently. Since 1980, Activision has been releasing video games for every platform it has access to, including a period of time as a publishing partner of Bungie’s destiny, while Blizzard has become famous by making some of the world’s most famous addictive games.
However, compared with Activision, Blizzard days are much better. Although its tentpole franchise, including watch, Warcraft and StarCraft, is still relevant in 2022, Blizzard has suffered a notorious “brain drain” in the past few years. Most of the company’s founders and key developers have left the company, and many of them seem to be a step ahead of the potential career end scandal.
It is reported that Blizzard’s internal culture has become so harmful that California sued blizzard in mid-2021, saying it contributed to a “widespread ‘fraternity boy’ workplace culture” and that female employees were “continuously sexually harassed”
In this context, it is difficult not to regard Blizzard as a weak link here. If Microsoft cares enough about its development, it still has potential, but it urgently needs top-down adjustment before doing anything else.
However, this may actually be a possibility. Bobby Kotick, the current CEO of Activision Blizzard, is widely regarded as an important driving force for many workplace problems of blizzard. It is said that he ignored or accelerated these problems in order to maximize the company’s profits. The Wall Street Journal recently published several reports, one of which was released on Monday morning, accusing cotick of covering up allegations of workplace abuse.
According to the terms of Microsoft’s acquisition, Phil Spencer, head of Xbox, is now the CEO of the newly established Microsoft games division. Spencer sent an email to Xbox employees on Tuesday morning, including:, “We also believe that creative success and autonomy are closely related to treating everyone with dignity and respect. We ask all teams and leaders to fulfill this commitment. We look forward to extending our positive and inclusive culture to the excellent team of Activision Blizzard.”
If the acquisition proceeds as planned, Spencer will actually become the head of Activision Blizzard. Although it is not completely clear at the time of writing this article whether this means that cotick is out, it implies that he will not have such firm control over the steering wheel of Activision Blizzard.