News broke today that Microsoft is buying Activision-Blizzard (ABK) for $69 Billion. The deal comes as Activision shares had dropped 27% in the past year before the deal, amid multiple cultural controversies inside the company. Let’s break down what this means for Call of Duty players.
Full link to the Xbox Press Release
Microsoft’s Largest Acquisition to Date
The deal is still subject to approval by governments and regulatory agencies worldwide. According to the Activision press release – the deal, if approved – would go into effect during Microsoft’s fiscal 2023 year, ending June 30, 2023. Until then Activision will operate in the same way it has, with Bobby Kotick as the CEO. Given the way development cycles work, don’t expect changes to the Call of Duty games till at least 2024.
After news broke, some immediate reactions were questioning if this deal would be stopped by the US government. This deal, if approved, would be the largest video game acquisition to date, dwarfing the recent $12 Billion acquisition of Zynga by Take-Two.
As the battle for the Metaverse heats up, so does the battle for content in it. According to tech analyst Dan Ives, “This was a metaverse-related deal in terms of what Activision could play with its franchises”. This acquisition would catapult Microsoft way ahead of Meta (Facebook). Will companies like Meta, Apple, Amazon and Alphabet go to DC to object?
Bobby Kotick will Reportedly Leave as CEO Following Closing of Deal
According to the Wall Street Journal, people familiar with the plans claim “Bobby Kotick, Activision’s longtime CEO, is expected to leave after the deal closes.” Confirming that although the Activision business will report to Xbox’s Phil Spencer, Bobby Kotick will NOT be a part of the post-acquisition hierarchy.
This news comes after an interview with the New York Times, in which Mr. Kotick didn’t specifically address his status after the deal’s approval. Instead saying, “(I will) always be available to ensure that we are going to have the very best integration.”
Talks between the two companies started as recently as November, so it’s pretty impressive that a deal was able to get worked out this quickly. Although, the recent controversies surrounding ABK probably played a role.
Will Call of Duty Become an Xbox Exclusive Title?
Although nothing is confirmed at this time, Phil Spencer in an interview with Bloomberg said “I’ll just say to players out there who are playing Activision Blizzard games on Sony’s platform: It’s not our intent to pull communities away from that platform and we remain committed to that.”
This leads many to believe that Activision IPs like Call of Duty, will remain on multiple platforms. Although just like Microsoft’s acquisition of Bethesda, future games (2023 onward) may become Xbox/Microsoft exclusives.
To editorialize a little, I think mainline COD titles move to bi-annual releases (every 2 years). They’d still be available on all platforms (full price on Playstation), but would be included with the Xbox Games Pass subscription service ($10 – 15/month). This would incentivize players to enter the “Microsoft Ecosystem” while keeping Xbox’s identity as “Gamer Friendly” among the audience.
The potential of this acquisition moves beyond just games. Technologies between the two companies would now be free for use between studios. Things like RICOCHET from Activision among technologies like Microsoft Azure. Expect technologies like Azure and True Match (more efficient SBMM) to be implemented in future Activision titles like Call of Duty.
There’s also sentiment that company culture, specifically ABK’s which has been under fire for the past 6 months, will improve under Xbox. According to Bloomberg reporter, Jason Schreier, here are some thoughts from current ABK employees.
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