Microsoft announced today it would be acquiring Activision Blizzard, adding some of the biggest franchises in gaming to its portfolio, including World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, and Candy Crush. The deal is currently the largest in the history of the video game industry, beating the record set only last week when Take-Two acquired Zynga for $12.7 billion. Activision CEO Bobby Kotick will remain in his current role. While the announcement does not comment on whether or not Activision games will now be exclusive to Microsoft platforms, it does reference Microsoft's intention bolster Game Pass with Activision's portfolio, also announcing that Game Pass has recently reached a milestone subscriber count of 25 million. The deal is expected to close in the fiscal year 2023 and will make Microsoft the third-largest gaming company by revenue, behind Tencent and Sony.
The merger comes at a tumultuous time for Activision Blizzard, after both the State of California and the SEC began investigating reports of sexual misconduct and worker discrimination at the company last summer. This controversy drew responses from across the industry, with PlayStation boss Jim Ryan reportedly condemning the company in an internal memo to employees, and Xbox CEO Phil Spencer stating in November that he would be "evaluating" his relationship with Activision Blizzard moving forward and that he was "disturbed and deeply troubled" by the reports. In an interview with The New York Times last week, Spencer said "we have changed how we do certain things with them, and they’re aware of that. But I also — this isn’t about, for us as Xbox, virtue-shaming other companies. Xbox’s history is not spotless." In a press release accompanying the acquisition announcement, Microsoft CEO and chairman Satya Nadella said “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.” To add to Activision's woes, the last Call of Duty release, Vanguard, reportedly performed below expectations and failed to beat the previous year's release, with some rumours circulating that the next Call of Duty may be moved up in the schedule to compensate.
This acquisition continues Microsoft's recent trend of major acquisitions across the gaming industry. Last September, they acquired publishing giant Zenimax, and have been purchasing scores of smaller studios for the past several years, including Obsidian, Double Fine and Ninja Theory.