In the wake of scandal and lawsuits alleging a culture of discrimination and harrassment at Activision Blizzard, Microsoft today announced they're buying the company. Wait, hang on. What. That's not what I expected when Xbox head Phil Spencer told staff he was "evaluating all aspects of [Xbox's] relationship" with Activision Blizzard. Microsoft plan to pay $68.7 billion (£50 billion) for the company, which will nab them games including Warcraft, Call Of Duty, and Overwatch. Jesus.
Pending approval from shareholders and authorities, Microsoft will buy up Activision Blizzard in a cash deal valued at $68.7 billion [almost nice -ed.]. They'll pick up video game series including Call Of Duty, Warcraft, Diablo, Overwatch, Candy Crush, Starcraft, and Diablo, along with 10,000 employees at studios and arms including Blizzard Entertainment, Infinity Ward, Treyarch, Raven Software, Toys For Bob, Sledgehammer Games, King, Beenox, High Moon Studios, Radical Entertainment, and Major League Gaming. They expect the deal to close in their 2023 fiscal year, so by the end of June 2023.
Microsoft say once everything's settled, they "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."
This a huge jump in the consolidation of the video games industry. Microsoft's announcement says they "will become the world's third-largest gaming company by revenue, behind Tencent and Sony." They add that buying ABK will feed into their cloud gaming push and "will provide building blocks for the metaverse". Can't forgot the M-word when you're talking to investors.
Microsoft say Bobby Kotick "will continue as CEO of Activision Blizzard" (for now, at least?) and once the deal is settled, Activision Blizzard will report to Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer. That's the same Bobby Kotick who allegedly knew more about workplace problems than he let on, and allegedly intervened to prevent the firing of a Treyarch high-up who was accused of sexual harrasment. The same Bobby Kotick whose continuing presence as CEO led to an employee walkout in protest. Hopefully Microsoft will deal with him, because it doesn't seem Activision Blizzard will. I wouldn't be surprised if he's out once the transition is complete, leaving with billions of dollars from the sale.
"As a company, Microsoft is committed to our journey for inclusion in every aspect of gaming, among both employees and players," Spencer said in Xbox's announcement. "We deeply value individual studio cultures. We also believe that creative success and autonomy go hand-in-hand with treating every person with dignity and respect. We hold all teams, and all leaders, to this commitment. We're looking forward to extending our culture of proactive inclusion to the great teams across Activision Blizzard."
Probably good that Microsoft last week announced plans to "review the effectiveness of the company's sexual harassment and gender discrimination policies and practices". They're buying a company in need of other help to improve working conditions too. Some Activision Blizzard QA workers have been on strike for seven weeks to protest layoffs at Call Of Duty: Warzone developers Raven.