Microsoft buys Activision Blizzard: with the video game industry under new management, what’s going to change?

Microsoft buys Activision Blizzard


In 1979, a bunch of discontent Atari staff determined to quit and make their own company. Activision was the world’s 1st “third-party” game development company, manufacturing and commercial enterprise titles for different companies’ platforms.

Fast-forward forty three years and therefore the company that’s currently Activision Blizzard has been bought by one in all the key platform house owners within the business, Microsoft, for a blistering US$68.7 billion greenbacks (around A$95.6 billion) – the biggest sale within the history of the game business.

This sale is additionally large in terms of the sport franchises Microsoft currently has management over; it currently owns blockbuster franchises like decision of Duty, Diablo, Starcraft, Candy Crush and World of Warcraft. And tens of ample fans of those titles can currently be wondering: what will this variation in possession mean for them?

Why now?

Big dollar acquisitions aren’t new within the game business. Activision Blizzard itself became one in all the biggest game corporations in 2008, once Activision unified with Blizzard in an exceedingly US$18.9 billion dollar deal. Microsoft and Sony frequently get eminent pre-existing development studios to require over their intellectual properties (IP) and build them accessible completely on their platforms.

But Microsoft has become notably aggressive in its approach. within the last decade alone it’s created variety of high-profile purchases, together with Minecraft developer Mojang in 2014 for US$2.5 billion, and Elder Scrolls and Doom publisher ZeniMax in 2020 for US$7.5 billion. With the Activision Blizzard acquisition, Microsoft is currently the third-largest company within the business, behind TenCent and Sony.

This is all a part of Microsoft’s current game business strategy, that is a smaller amount regarding marketing game merchandise and additional regarding increasing subscriptions to its Game Pass service. the same as services like Netflix and Spotify, Game Pass offers subscribers access to a vast digital catalogue of games in exchange for a monthly fee.

In its announcement of the Activision Blizzard purchase, Microsoft additionally boasted Game Pass has surpassed twenty five million users. With every user paying US$16 a month, that’s regarding US$400 million (or A$556 million) in monthly revenue.

With Activision Blizzard, Microsoft currently owns a large new vary of franchises it will build accessible through Game Pass, attracting even additional users.

Gaming landlords

If it wished, Microsoft would possibly even build these franchises solely accessible through Game Pass, forcing customers off from different consoles like PlayStation and distribution platforms like Steam. In different words, it may pull customers into its own exclusive sphere.

This is currently a standard strategy. Now, through subscription-based digital platforms, we’ve all stopped being house owners of product and instead became renters.

This is additionally true of individual video games. decision of Duty, stone, Fortnite (and several others) are not any longer games that players purchase once, however ar instead their own ecosystems within which players ar inspired to ceaselessly pay cash on battle passes, cosmetics and access to new content.

Meanwhile, the businesses that own these titles will perpetually farm new knowledge from their ample players, additional increasing their company price.

With the acquisition of Activision Blizzard, Microsoft has effectively purchased a town of existing renters within the player ecosystems of decision of Duty, stone, World of Warcraft and lots of different titles.

That’s tens of ample players already committed to closed ecosystems, together with several within the difficult-to-penetrate Chinese market enjoying Blizzard titles stone and World of Warcraft. All of those players may be farmed for additional personal knowledge and additional rent.


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So what will it mean for players and developers?

In the short term, most likely not a full ton.

Over the approaching years, however, Microsoft would possibly arrange to keep additional of those fresh nonheritable franchises for its own platforms. For a laptop player, this would possibly merely mean having to transition off from Steam to the Microsoft Game Store if they need to access the franchises: AN inconvenience, however few radical modification.

For PlayStation and mackintosh players, things might be additional dire, and that they would possibly realize themselves having to buy a laptop or AN Xbox if they need to play new entries to those franchises within the future.

Some also are disquieted in progress large mergers can stifle creativeness and innovation across the game business. however this can be unlikely since the majority of the revenue generated by the business has continuously been focused in an exceedingly comparatively little range of risk-adverse corporations.

In her book international Games, research worker Aphra Kerr calculable that in 2015, the highest 10 game corporations accounted for forty ninth of the whole industry’s revenue. In spite of this concentration of capital, the creativeness and innovation that produces new genres nearly always emerges at the edge, in abundant smaller, freelance teams operating with way fewer resources.

The explosion of latest and numerous genres we’ve seen over the past decade occurred, in massive half, as a result of freelance creators ar currently able to access way more powerful tools, like game engines Unity and Unreal, and bigger audiences through digital marketplaces, like Steam or Xbox Game Pass.

The situation is way from ideal, however {the corporations|the businesses} that management most of the capital within the game business – and therefore the companies that ar the foremost innovative – have seldom been an equivalent. therefore this latest acquisition is unlikely to stifle creativeness.

But there’s additional at stake during this historic sale. Activision Blizzard is facing accusations and lawsuits of harassment, abuse and favouritism across its offices, and chief executive officer officer Kotick has been underneath intense pressure to resign for months. Kotick is currently set to run off from the corporate with US$400 million;the allegations of a virulent work ar currently Microsoft’s responsibility to scrub up.

Perhaps this can be the vital question starting of the recent sale: not that piece of hardware can have access to that games, however whether or not Microsoft can take responsibility for rising the work culture and dealing conditions for game developers? We’ll ought to wait and see.