Well, it’s happened. Over a year since the initial announcement, Microsoft has finally acquired Activision Blizzard, following the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) approval earlier today.
The deadline for the deal wasn’t until Wednesday, October 18, but clearly the two companies wanted to finalise things ASAP. They were also confident the CMA would be satisfied with their recent cloud streaming concessions, since they had a fancy new trailer all primed and ready to go out.
As for what comes next, neither Xbox boss Phil Spencer nor Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick have really touched on the specifics and are so far just celebrating the completion of the deal, while also trying to assure the industry that it’s what’s best for everyone, not just Xbox owners.
‘For the millions of fans who love Activision, Blizzard, and King games, we want you to know that today is a good day to play. You are the heart and soul of these franchises, and we are honoured to have you as part of our community,’ reads a statement from Spencer.
‘Whether you play on Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo, PC or mobile, you are welcome here – and will remain welcome, even if Xbox isn’t where you play your favourite franchise. Because when everyone plays, we all win.’
This comes across as an attempt to placate fears of other platforms losing access to Activision games; something Microsoft has been insistent won’t happen. It’s why they’ve made a big deal about bringing Call Of Duty to other platforms like the Switch.
You can forgive non-Xbox fans for being sceptical though. After all, following Microsoft’s buyout of Bethesda, the studio’s newer games like Redfall and Starfield were made Xbox exclusives, and it looks like new entries in established franchises like The Elder Scrolls 6 won’t be multiplatform either.
‘As promised, we will also continue to make more games available in more places – and that begins now by enabling cloud streaming providers and players to stream Activision Blizzard games in the European Economic Area, a commitment made to the European Commission,’ adds Spencer.
He also mentions that work has begun on bringing Activision, Blizzard, and King games to Game Pass and other platforms, but doesn’t name any examples. Just that more info will be shared in the coming months.
Elsewhere in the statement, Spencer writes: ‘As one team, we’ll learn, innovate, and continue to deliver on our promise to bring the joy and community of gaming to more people. We’ll do this in a culture that strives to empower everyone to do their best work, where all people are welcome, and is centred on our ongoing commitment of Gaming for Everyone.’
As a reminder, Activision Blizzard was hit with numerous allegations of sexual harassment and abuse in 2021, prompting widespread condemnation from the industry.
This included Microsoft, although it later transpired that Spencer entered negotiations to buy Activision Blizzard just 24 hours after telling staff he was ‘disturbed and deeply troubled by the horrific events and actions’ of the company and that ‘this type of behaviour has no place in our industry.’
Meanwhile, Kotick emailed Activision employees to say, ‘This moment is possible because of your efforts over four decades to innovate, inspire, and achieve. … Your dedication is what makes it possible for us to continually push envelopes, break records, and delight players. Amid the uncertainty of the last 21 months, you’ve remained focused, as always, on serving our players and supporting each other.’
Be sure to keep this in mind if/when the layoffs start. Big mergers like this almost always involve significant redundancies and Microsoft is bound to make cuts to recoup some of the $69 billion it spent on the buyout.
However, Kotick will remain in charge, per Spencer’s request to help with the transition, though only for the rest of the year.
Unsurprisingly, neither mention the US’s Federal Trade Commission’s ongoing efforts against the acquisition but at this point, it’s hard to imagine what the FTC can do.
They obviously can’t prevent the acquisition anymore, but they can try and have it undone. With every other regulator on the planet having approved it, though, it’s going to an uphill battle.
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