*** ****’* ****.
It’s only 18 days into the new year and we’ve already seen the biggest acquisition in video games history. This shouldn’t be a sentence I’ll have to paraphrase every week, if simply because unsustainable growth will only escalate the heat death of the universe. But the games industry celebrates yet another record-shattering acquisition, as Microsoft continues to feast on some of the most prolific developer-publishers in the world, this time Activision Blizzard.
Following the acquisition, Microsoft will be the third largest video games company by revenue, behind Tencent and Sony, and will gain the rights to all Activision, Blizzard, and King IP. Bobby Kotick will continue to serve as Activision Blizzard CEO and report to Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer following the successful acquisition.
But I thought the header image Microsoft used to announce the acquisition was much more revealing than intended.
It's worth acknowledging how dour Activision Blizzard’s track record in 2021 was: Call of Duty: Vanguard launch sales were down 40 per cent compared to last year’s Black Ops Cold War; Diablo IV and Overwatch 2 have been delayed with no confirmed release date; players and prolific streamers have been abandoning World of Warcraft in favour of Final Fantasy XIV in droves; and StarCraft II is a spent force, as an esport and a franchise.
Most significantly, Activision Blizzard’s culture of sexual abuse, harrassment, and discrimination will rightly stay a tightly-wound albatross, regardless of statements or intentions of change, for as long as Bobby Kotick remains CEO.
I don’t need to persuade the PocketGamer.biz audience of this – the real jewel in the crown is King. Candy Crush Saga was one of eight mobile games to generate more than $1 billion in 2021 and remains one of the highest grossing mobile games of all time.
Microsoft made no secret of the significance of mobile in the acquisition, with Spencer stating in an investors call: "Mobile is the biggest category and an area where we have not had a major presence before and this transaction adds one of the most successful mobile publishers to Microsoft gaming, and I’m personally looking forward to learning from the innovative teams at King."
But, in our heart of hearts, we know there’s really only one true reason core to the $70 billion acquisition. Microsoft finally has the character-action mascot it’s wanted since Blinx the Time Sweeper: