Microsoft has closed its acquisition of Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion, a deal that makes Microsoft one of the biggest gaming companies in the world. Now, popular gaming franchises like Call of Duty, Warcraft, Overwatch, and more are in the fold of Microsoft’s ever-expanding portfolio of studios, alongside Bethesda and its own Xbox Game Studios.
Also included as part of the deal is King, the maker of Candy Crush, signaling that Microsoft may utilize the company to compete in the mobile space. In early 2021, Take-Two Interactive (which houses developers like 2K, Private Division, and Rockstar Games) purchased Zynga for $12.7 billion.
The deal’s closing was delayed as regulators worldwide raised issues with Microsoft bringing such a large company in-house. However, after a judge denied the FTC’s attempt to block the deal and Microsoft cut a deal allowing Ubisoft a perpetual cloud streaming license for Activision games, it has received the necessary approvals in the US, UK, and other countries.
The acquisition was announced after several high-profile claims of sexual harassment were levied against Activision Blizzard, and in July 2021, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) sued Activision Blizzard for promoting a culture of “constant sexual harassment.” Activision CEO Bobby Kotick announced he will remain in place through the end of 2023 to assist Phil Spencer with the transition.
We’ll be keeping you updated with the latest news on the big acquisition here, with reports that interrogate how the gaming world might change (in good ways and in bad ways) now that one of the largest third-party game studios is under Microsoft’s ownership.
Oct 13Bobby Kotick will apparently leave Microsoft to focus on philanthropy.
We knew the Activision Blizzard King CEO would stick around through the end of the year, but it seems he’s done after that.
He told Bloomberg he wants to focus on philanthropy, help reform education, and is thinking about how to “reduce hatred and intolerance in the world.”
In 2021, a bombshell report at the WSJ alleged Kotick was personally part of ABK’s sexual misconduct problem. Last year, he donated to a 2020 election protestor.
Microsoft’s giant Activision Blizzard deal is complete, and it means Ubisoft has now obtained cloud streaming rights for Call of Duty, all other current Activision Blizzard games, and any coming over the next 15 years. It was a key concession from Microsoft that helped get the deal over the line with UK regulators. But what does it all mean?Read Article >
Ubisoft will now control where Call of Duty and other Activision Blizzard games show up on cloud gaming services, with the exception of EU countries and the various cloud gaming deals Microsoft signed previously. If you live in a country that’s part of the European Economic Area (EEA) — which includes EU countries and also Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway — then you’ll get a free license to stream via “any cloud game streaming services of their choice” all current and future Activision Blizzard PC and console games that you have purchased.
Now that the Microsoft acquisition is complete, Bobby Kotick, the CEO of Activision Blizzard, is set to leave the company after the end of this year.Read Article >
In an email sent to employees and published on Activision Blizzard King’s website, Kotick wrote that he’s excited about the future of the company under the bright green Xbox umbrella. He also wrote that in order to facilitate a smooth transition, he intends to stay on temporarily as CEO of ABK, reporting to the CEO of Microsoft Gaming, Phil Spencer.
Microsoft just finalized its giant $68.7 billion deal to acquire Activision Blizzard earlier today. Xbox chief Phil Spencer has now welcomed Activision Blizzard King employees to Xbox in an internal memo to all of Microsoft’s full-time employees today.Read Article >
“We couldn’t be more excited that Activision Blizzard employees are our colleagues, co-workers, and teammates,” says Spencer. “Bobby Kotick has agreed to remain in his role through the end of 2023, reporting directly to me, to ensure a smooth and seamless integration. We look forward to working together as a unified team and we will share more updates on our new organizational structure in the coming months.”
Microsoft has finalized its $68.7 billion deal to acquire Activision Blizzard, the publisher of Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, and Diablo. The Verge exclusively reported last week that Microsoft was planning to close today, and now it’s official. The acquisition required 20 months of battles with regulators in the UK and US, but Microsoft has closed its Activision Blizzard deal after defeating the Federal Trade Commission in a US federal court and restructuring the deal to appease the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in the UK.Read Article >
“We love gaming. We play games, create games, and know first-hand how much gaming means to all of us as individuals and collectively, as a community. And today, we officially welcome Activision Blizzard and their teams to Xbox,” says Xbox chief Phil Spencer. “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 centered on our ongoing commitment of Gaming for Everyone.”
Microsoft’s $68.7 billion deal to acquire Activision Blizzard has been approved by UK regulators. The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has concluded that the deal can proceed after Microsoft recently restructured the deal to transfer cloud gaming rights for current and new Activision Blizzard games to Ubisoft. The decision clears the way for the deal to close now that the UK regulator has given the green light.Read Article >
“The CMA has decided to give Microsoft Corporation (Microsoft) consent to acquire Activision Blizzard, Inc. (Activision) (the Parties) excluding Activision’s cloud streaming rights outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) (the Merger) subject to the condition that the sale of Activision’s cloud streaming rights completes prior to completion of the Merger,” reads a statement from the CMA.
Oct 10Playing video games over something like Neuralink? Bobby Kotick thinks it might be something we actually do.
Windows Central has some details about an all-hands meeting that took place on Tuesday, including some pontificating by Kotick about how a Neuralink-like brain interface could be a future way we interact with video games and hints about some kind of revival for Guitar Hero.
Since Kotick is expected to depart sometime after Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision closes (which is expected to happen imminently), anything could change about Activision's plans after Microsoft takes over. I’m crossing my fingers that Microsoft does actually bring back Guitar Hero, though.
Microsoft is planning to finalize its $68.7 billion proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard next week. A source familiar with Microsoft’s plans tells The Verge that the company is eyeing up Friday October 13th as the closing date where it announces to the world that the 20-month process to buy Call of Duty maker Activision Blizzard is over.Read Article >
That date will still depend on the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority though, a regulator that blocked Microsoft’s deal earlier this year. Microsoft recently restructured the deal to transfer cloud gaming rights for current and new Activision Blizzard games to Ubisoft, and the Xbox maker secured preliminary approval from the CMA late last month as a result.
The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has given preliminary approval for Microsoft to proceed with its $69 billion Activision Blizzard deal. The CMA had originally blocked the acquisition over cloud gaming concerns, but Microsoft recently restructured the deal to transfer cloud gaming rights for current and new Activision Blizzard games to Ubisoft. In a memo to employees (included below), Xbox boss Phil Spencer called it “a positive development and a welcome indicator that our hard work is bringing us closer to our goal.”Read Article >
“The CMA considers that the restructured deal makes important changes that substantially address the concerns it set out in relation to the original transaction earlier this year,” the CMA said in a press release, and “opens the door to the deal being cleared.”
Aug 22Linux could (but probably won’t) be a surprise beneficiary of the Microsoft-Activision deal.
According to the CMA:
Ubisoft will also be able, for a fee, to require Microsoft to adapt Activision’s titles to operating systems other than Windows, such as Linux, if it decides to use or license out the cloud streaming rights to Activision’s titles to a cloud gaming service that runs a non-Windows operating system.
This would have been a bigger deal when the Linux-based Google Stadia still existed and Ubisoft wanted it to succeed. Still, could be relevant someday!
Microsoft is restructuring its proposed Activision Blizzard deal to transfer cloud gaming rights for current and new Activision Blizzard games to Ubisoft. The transfer of rights is designed to appease regulators in the UK that are concerned about the impact Microsoft’s proposed $68.7 billion deal will have on cloud gaming competition. The restructured deal has triggered a new regulatory investigation in the UK that could last until October 18th.Read Article >
“To address the concerns about the impact of the proposed acquisition on cloud game streaming raised by the UK Competition and Markets Authority, we are restructuring the transaction to acquire a narrower set of rights,” says Microsoft president Brad Smith. “This includes executing an agreement effective at the closing of our merger that transfers the cloud streaming rights for all current and new Activision Blizzard PC and console games released over the next 15 years to Ubisoft Entertainment SA, a leading global game publisher. The rights will be in perpetuity.”
Surprising absolutely no one, Activision Blizzard has announced the latest Call of Duty game.Read Article >
Posts today from developer Sledgehammer Games and the official Call of Duty accounts confirmed Modern Warfare III (not to be confused with 2011’s Modern Warfare 3, of course) will launch on November 10th.
Bethesda’s popular Doom, Quake, and Wolfenstein games are making their way onto the GeForce Now cloud gaming service this month, Nvidia announced in a blog post. While Nvidia didn’t reveal the specific titles in each franchise (although the post teases an image of Wolfenstein: The New Order), you must have the Ultimate or Priority membership to get access when they drop.Read Article >
The new additions are the first Bethesda titles available for streaming on GeForce Now and stem from a 10-year agreement between Nvidia and Microsoft, which owns Bethesda, that brings Xbox PC games onto the platform. Microsoft made the deal as part of its efforts to appease regulators as it moves closer to acquiring Activision Blizzard. The new Bethesda game additions come after the launch of GeForce Now’s new Ultimate tier in January that lets subscribers play games that are remotely rendered on “SuperPOD” servers running RTX 4080-class graphics cards.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is suspending its administrative challenge (PDF) seeking to block Microsoft from buying Activision Blizzard. The FTC had taken a two-pronged approach against the $68.7 billion deal, filing this case last December that was scheduled to go before its own administrative judge on August 2nd.Read Article >
The other part was its pursuit of a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction that would have stopped Microsoft closing its deal while the FTC’s administrative process continued. A US federal judge denied the injunction request earlier this month, and an appeals court also turned down its request to put an emergency hold on the deal. The FTC is still appealing the preliminary injunction denial, though.
Microsoft and Activision Blizzard have agreed to extend their merger agreement pending the outcome of negotiations with UK regulators. Both parties will now have until October 18th to finalize the transaction, after missing yesterday’s original deal deadline.Read Article >
“The recent decision in the US and approvals in 40 countries all validate that the deal is good for competition, players, and the future of gaming,” tweeted Lulu Cheng Meservey, Activision Blizzard’s CCO and EVP of corporate affairs. “Given global regulatory approvals and the companies’ confidence that CMA now recognizes there are remedies available to meet their concerns in the UK, the Activision Blizzard and Microsoft boards of directors have authorized the companies not to terminate the deal until after October 18.”
Jul 17Microsoft and Activision might push back their deadline to complete the merger.
A report from Bloomberg based on unnamed sources says the two companies aren’t likely to make their agreed July 18th deadline to close the deal, but rather than have Microsoft pay the game publisher a $3 billion breakup fee they’ll just extend it and try to get it down a little later.
As Tom wrote earlier, despite a courtroom win in the US, the UK’s CMA has set August 29th as the target date for its order, making an extension even more likely.
Jul 14MicroActiBlizz might divest the UK streaming rights to its games to appease regulators.
Bloomberg says Microsoft and Activision Blizzard are only “considering giving up” those UK rights, but I suspect it might genuinely work if they do.
The CMA’s primary remaining objection to the $68.7 billion deal was a fear that Microsoft would make Activision games exclusive to its own cloud gaming service. (There’s a bit more to it, but still.) If Microsoft permanently removed its own ability to do so...
The Federal Trade Commission is asking for US courts to stop Microsoft from acquiring Activision Blizzard while the government’s bigger case to block the merger plays out. The FTC originally filed a legal challenge to try and block Microsoft’s proposed Activision Blizzard acquisition in December, and now it’s seeking a temporary restraining order and injunction from a US federal district court.Read Article >
“Both a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction are necessary because Microsoft and Activision have represented that they may consummate the proposed acquisition at any time,” reads the FTC’s complaint.
In 2021, the state of California sued Activision Blizzard, alleging that the video game publisher fostered a pervasive culture of harassment going back years. Details in the suit spoke of “cube crawls,” where male employees would get drunk and walk around the workplace subjecting female employees to inappropriate behavior. It alleged that male employees would pawn off responsibilities to their female co-workers, how women of color were passed up for opportunities given to less tenured workers, and how a senior World of Warcraft developer was so infamous for his harassment of women that his office was nicknamed the “Cosby suite.”Read Article >
But news of the suit was just the opening salvo in what would become a battery of reporting, documenting the kinds of harassment that went on at Activision Blizzard. Current and former employees shared their stories, including how a woman was demoted for allegedly reporting her harasser, how a nursing mother had her breast milk stolen from company refrigerators, and how one employee’s sexual harassment led to their death by suicide.
May 26Microsoft has appealed the CMA’s decision to block the Activision deal, and now we know Microsoft’s arguments.
VGC spotted the “Summary of Application” document, which outlines Microsoft’s five grounds for the appeal. For example:
The Respondent’s finding that Activision would have been likely to make its gaming content available on cloud gaming services absent the Merger was irrational and arrived at in a procedurally unfair manner.
May 10The EU is expected to approve Microsoft’s Activision acquisition.
I am not a merger apologist. I generally don’t think the world’s better off with an ever-smaller number of companies at the helm! But of all the reasons to block Microsoft’s $68.7 billion purchase of Activision Blizzard, I never dreamed that “We need to stop Microsoft from dominating cloud gaming” would be the one.Read Article >
Yet that’s exactly the door regulators chose to walk through on Wednesday, when the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority ruled that the deal could “alter the future of the fast-growing cloud gaming market, leading to reduced innovation and less choice for UK gamers over the years to come.” They’re denying a deal that was widely expected to be approved, leaving Microsoft and Activision Blizzard hanging their hopes on a European Union decision next month.
- Nvidia still wants Microsoft+ActiBlizz.
GeForce NOW and other cloud gaming providers stand to gain an even deeper catalog of games if Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision is completed. We see this as a benefit to cloud gaming and hope for a positive resolution.
Not surprising, because Microsoft promised Nvidia big things if the deal went through:
- “The UK is closed for business.”
The CMA’s report contradicts the ambitions of the UK to become an attractive country to build technology businesses. We will work aggressively with Microsoft to reverse this on appeal. The report’s conclusions are a disservice to UK citizens, who face increasingly dire economic prospects. We will reassess our growth plans for the UK. Global innovators large and small will take note that - despite all its rhetoric - the UK is clearly closed for business.