Microsoft has announced their intended acquisition of problem child super-publisher Activision Blizzard. The all cash deal is valued at $68.7 billion, and includes the purchase of tentpole franchises such as Call of Duty, Overwatch, Candy Crush, and Warcraft.
Via Xbox Wire, Microsoft CEO Phil Spencer has also announced that “upon close, we will offer as many Activision Blizzard games as we can within Xbox Game Pass and PC Game Pass, both new titles and games from Activision Blizzard’s incredible catalog.” The deal will reportedly close by fiscal year 2023, adding a plethora of new games into Microsoft’s flagship service, which has crossed the 25 million subscriber mark.
And that’s the end of the good news, as the press release also contains some troubling information. Satya Nadella, chairman and CEO of Microsoft stated: “Gaming is the most dynamic and exciting category in entertainment across all platforms today and will play a key role in the development of metaverse platforms.”
The metaverse, or the idea of a virtual world for people to exist in lately tied with NFTs, is a much maligned topic among the gaming world. One look at the reaction to a recently resurfaced 2017 Walmart video believed to be about the metaverse illustrates the uphill battle those pioneering the concept face to be taken seriously.
The acquisition itself comes at a very consequential time for Activision Blizzard, who find themselves at the receiving end of multiple lawsuits. The initial and most egregious suit was filed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing,which accused the company of gender discrimination like unequal pay and sexual harassment.
The publishing giant continues to face strikes, especially in light of a Washington Post expose that alleged CEO Bobby Kotick knew of the issues within the company and actively hid them from shareholders. The same shareholders have continued to express ridiculous confidence in Kotick to fix the issues plaguing the company.
Only a week ago, Spencer made waves by stating he was “saddened and sickened by the alleged toxicity inside the company” and that “the allegations forced Xbox to change aspects of its working relationship with Activision Blizzard.” Apparently the changes in working relationship meant he had to buy them.
The deal could take up to 18 months to go through, so there’s still a chance it could fall apart or get blocked for antitrust reasons. Surely something of this magnitude, almost 10 times the amount Microsoft paid for Zenimax, will be in the crosshairs of the FTC; Microsoft sure seems itching for a trust bust again. Or maybe this will be good—maybe Microsoft will be a benevolent overlord that actively changes the terrible environment within all Activision Blizzard studios. Only time will tell.