The journey that began in January 2022 when Microsoft first announced its intentions to acquire the gaming conglomerate Activision Blizzard King has been a long and eventful one. After successfully navigating a Federal Trade Commission lawsuit and meeting the requirements of UK antitrust authorities, it’s now official: Microsoft has taken ownership of the creators and publishers behind iconic titles like Call of Duty, Fallout, Overwatch, WarCraft, Diablo, Candy Crush, and many more.
In an unusual twist, there’s even a trailer for this corporate acquisition. The trailer showcases iconic moments from Microsoft’s previous acquisitions, including Halo and Fallout, as well as memorable moments from Activision Blizzard’s titles, including a meme-worthy StarCraft scene with its “Hell” preface removed.
Phil Spencer, the CEO of Microsoft Gaming, expressed his excitement, saying, “Whether it was the late nights spent playing the Diablo IV campaign with friends, gathering the whole family for our weekly Guitar Hero night in the rec room, or achieving epic victories in Candy Crush, some of my most cherished gaming memories were born from the creative studios of these teams. It’s truly incredible to welcome such legendary talent to Xbox.”
With this all-cash acquisition, Microsoft has now risen to become the third-largest gaming company by revenue, trailing only Tencent and Sony. This monumental deal surpasses Microsoft’s previous largest acquisition of LinkedIn in 2016 and bolsters its gaming division with 30 internal game development studios, including the renowned Bethesda group, for which it paid $7.6 billion in 2021. Activision Blizzard comprises over 8,500 employees across nine game studios, while its King mobile gaming division operates in over a dozen locations.
While Microsoft initially announced plans to integrate Activision Blizzard games into its Game Pass subscription package, this integration won’t take place until at least 2024. The concerns surrounding the creation of a dominant force in game streaming were a significant focus for both the FTC and UK regulators. In response, Microsoft worked to address these concerns by offering its games on rival platforms, such as GeForce Now, and in Europe, striking deals with competitors like Ubisoft.
Efforts to alleviate concerns that their titles would become exclusive to Windows and Xbox were met with mixed success. Sony reluctantly signed a 10-year deal for Call of Duty PlayStation releases after vocal opposition in the press and courtrooms. However, it’s widely believed that Activision Blizzard’s games may not remain platform-agnostic in the future, as Microsoft’s acquisition of Bethesda and its subsequent actions suggest a preference for their in-house platforms over time.
Bobby Kotick, the CEO of Activision Blizzard, confirmed in an email to employees, published on the company’s website, that he will continue as CEO of ABK, reporting to Phil Spencer, until the end of 2023. Many had expected Kotick, who has faced challenges in recent years, to step down from the company he had led for 33 years. Now that the Microsoft acquisition has been finalized, he will have approximately $375 million for his future endeavors.