Microsoft acquires Activision Blizzard in $69-billion gaming deal (2024)

Microsoft acquired gaming giant Activision Blizzard on Friday, closing the biggest deal in video game history after more than a year of close scrutiny from antitrust officials around the world.

The announcement came after Microsoft cleared a final regulatory hurdle to the deal from Britain’s competition watchdog.

The $69-billion purchase of Santa Monica-based Activision Blizzard makes Microsoft the third-largest gaming company in the world by revenue, behind China’s Tencent and Sony in Japan.

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First announced in January 2022, the deal faced heavy scrutiny from regulators in the European Union, United States and United Kingdom who argued that the acquisition could raise prices for gamers and harm competition in the gaming industry, including in cloud-based gaming. In total, more than a dozen countries reviewed the acquisition.

Microsoft President Brad Smith said in a statement the combination “will benefit players and the gaming industry worldwide.”

The purchase, seen as a test of whether international regulators would approve such blockbuster tech deals, comes as the growing global games market is expected to generate nearly $188 billion in revenue in 2023 — up 2.6% from last year, according to Amsterdam-based industry tracker Newzoo.

In an email to staff, Activision Blizzard Chief Executive Bobby Kotick said that he would stay with the company through the end of the year.

“Combining with Microsoft will bring new resources and new opportunities to our extraordinary teams worldwide,” Kotick said. “It will also enable us to deliver more fun, more joy, and more connection to more players than ever before.”

Microsoft’s bid is part of a years-long consolidation trend in the video game industry that has shifted power away from game makers into the hands of platform holders, said Joost van Dreunen, author of “One Up: Creativity, Competition, and the Global Business of Video Games.”

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“Microsoft is trying to redraw the boundaries or the definition of what the games industry looks like,” Van Dreunen said. “In a conventionally sort of console-based universe, they now have console, PC, mobile and the cloud. It allows them to compete on their strengths.”

In purchasing Activision Blizzard, Microsoft will boost its mobile gaming presence by adding “Candy Crush” and “Call of Duty Mobile” to its arsenal at a time when mobile is gaming’s most significant segment by consumer spending.

With the acquisition completed, Microsoft said that it will begin the process of making Activision, Blizzard and King’s library of games available on Xbox’s Game Pass and other platforms.

Van Dreunen said that closing the deal could have a ripple effect across the industry, leading other corporations to look at what they might be able to acquire in order to compete.

“What’s going to happen to Electronic Arts? It’s worth $35 billion. That’s nothing compared to what they are about to close,” he said, referring to the Redwood City, Calif.-based video game company. “I would not be surprised if the top 10 companies in the games industry, five years from now, would be exclusively platform holders.”

The industry’s landscape has vastly changed over the last decade, he said. Several large companies — including Microsoft — acquired other game studios over the course of the pandemic, when the industry skyrocketed as people stayed home.

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Microsoft announced its plan to acquire gaming company Zenimax for $7.5 billion in 2020. Two years later, Sony purchased game developer Bungie for $3.6 billion, while Take-Two Interactive bought mobile game giant Zynga for $12.7 billion. Microsoft revealed it would buy Activision Blizzard that same year.

The move came amid a crackdown on tech mergers by U.S. Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan, who has opposed the Activision acquisition. But a federal judge in San Francisco ruled earlier this year that the FTC hadn’t shown that the deal would harm competition for gaming.

Instead, the court said, evidence pointed to the deal granting more consumer access to games by keeping Activision’s popular “Call of Duty” series on PlayStation for 10 years, agreeing with Nintendo to bring “Call of Duty” to Switch and signing deals to bring Activision’s content to several cloud gaming services for the first time.

Still, the FTC has said that it will resume its administrative case against the deal even after it closes.

The U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority also initially blocked the acquisition, before regulators accepted a restructured deal that transferred cloud streaming rights for current and new Activision Blizzard PC and console games released over the next 15 years to Ubisoft Entertainment, a global game publisher.

Under the new agreement, Microsoft won’t be able to release Activision Blizzard games exclusively on its own cloud streaming service, Xbox Cloud Gaming, or to exclusively control the licensing terms of Activision Blizzard games for rival services.

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“The new deal will stop Microsoft from locking up competition in cloud gaming as this market takes off, preserving competitive prices and services for U.K. cloud gaming customers,” the British watchdog said.

The European Commission approved the deal in May, calling it pro-competitive.

The purchase is not the first in Activision’s history.

The company, founded in Sunnyvale, Calif., in 1979, launched after game developers left Atari over labor issues and recognition for their work.

By the late 1990s and early 2000s, the business that began in a California garage had made moves that would propel it to the top of the gaming world. Activision purchased dozens of companies, including game developers Raven Software, Treyarch and Infinity Ward.

The company merged with Irvine-based Blizzard Entertainment in 2008 in a $19-billion deal, the largest merger or acquisition in the video game industry at that time, making it Activision Blizzard.

Activision Blizzard then bought itself out from under French media company Vivendi for about $8 billion in 2013, before acquiring “Candy Crush” publisher King Digital Entertainment for $5.9 billion in 2016.

This latest transaction with Microsoft came after a protracted series of labor disputes in which Activision Blizzard employees alleged that the company harbored a hostile, sexist, discriminatory workplace — something that Activision Blizzard has denied.

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California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a lawsuit against the video game maker, and some employees sued.

A settlement with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission led Activision to establish an $18-million fund for workers who experienced sexual harassment or discrimination at the company, among other types of workplace misconduct. The company denied all wrongdoing.

“Activision is a long way off from its renegade origins,” said Laine Nooney, assistant professor of media industries at New York University. “The founding of Activision was a real punch up to corporate power. Now it’s hard to imagine a game company more corporate than Activision proper.”

Microsoft has expressed ambitions in changing that piece of the company’s culture after taking a different tack with labor and recognizing a union of quality assurance workers formed under the Communication Workers of America.

On Friday, the CWA said the acquisition would improve working conditions in the game industry because Microsoft will remain neutral should Activision Blizzard employees express interest in joining a union.

It’s not clear what the deal means for gaming culture, Nooney added. Acquisitions, they said, aim to create benefits for consumers in the form of lower prices. But Microsoft has already increased the cost of Game Pass, the Xbox subscription service.

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And although the Activision acquisition is mainly about Microsoft centralizing platform power, Nooney said, console loyalties die hard.

“The most common video game platform owned by the young generation I teach isn’t a PlayStation or an Xbox — it’s a Switch,” they said. “Microsoft can’t predict its own future. It’s simply hoping that this acquisition will better tilt the plane in its direction.”

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Microsoft acquires Activision Blizzard in $69-billion gaming deal (1)

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Microsoft acquires Activision Blizzard in $69-billion gaming deal (2024)

FAQs

Microsoft acquires Activision Blizzard in $69-billion gaming deal? ›

Microsoft said on Friday that it had closed its $69 billion purchase of the video game giant Activision Blizzard, overcoming significant regulatory hurdles in Britain and the United States and signaling that the tech industry's giants are still free to use their cash hoards to get even bigger.

Did Microsoft close $69 billion takeover of Activision Blizzard? ›

Microsoft closed its $69 billion deal for Activision Blizzard after CMA cleared the acquisition, saying the restructured deal substantially addressed its earlier concerns. U.S. FTC asks an appeals court in California to overturn a lower court decision that the acquisition is legal.

Did the Microsoft Activision deal go through? ›

He has been covering the business & culture of video games for two decades. Microsoft has successfully persuaded regulators around the world to clear its $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard — the biggest deal of its kind the gaming industry has ever seen — and has completed the deal.

Which company recently completed a $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard? ›

Microsoft's $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard marks a pivotal moment for Xbox CEO Phil Spencer.

How much did MS pay for Activision Blizzard? ›

Microsoft has finalized its $68.7 billion deal to acquire Activision Blizzard, the publisher of Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, and Diablo.

How much did Blizzard sell to Activision? ›

Activision purchased dozens of companies, including game developers Raven Software, Treyarch and Infinity Ward. The company merged with Irvine-based Blizzard Entertainment in 2008 in a $19-billion deal, the largest merger or acquisition in the video game industry at that time, making it Activision Blizzard.

How much is Activision worth? ›

Market cap: $74.28 Billion

As of July 2024 Activision Blizzard has a market cap of $74.28 Billion. This makes Activision Blizzard the world's 237th most valuable company by market cap according to our data.

Does Xbox own Activision now? ›

The acquisition was completed on October 13, 2023, with its total cost amounting to $75.4 billion. Under the terms of the agreement, Microsoft brought Activision Blizzard under its Microsoft Gaming business unit as a sibling division to Xbox Game Studios and ZeniMax Media.

What happens if Xbox buys Activision? ›

Acquiring Activision Blizzard gives Microsoft access to multi-million dollar IPs such as Call of Duty, Overwatch, Diablo, and WarCraft franchises, as well as studios such as Treyarch and Infinity Ward, at a time when video game IP is proving highly valuable — just see the success of HBO's The Last of Us adaptation.

Why can't Microsoft buy Activision? ›

The reason the purchase was bogged down by legal action is competition. By acquiring Activision Blizzard, critics argued, Microsoft's gaming division would simply own too much of the industry, unfairly limiting its competitors and ultimately harming consumers.

Will Microsoft own World of Warcraft? ›

Overwatch, Call of Duty and World of Warcraft are now all owned by Microsoft. Here's how the change could affect the PC, console and mobile games you love. Corinne Reichert (she/her) grew up in Sydney, Australia and moved to California in 2019.

What game did Microsoft just buy? ›

Microsoft doesn't just now own Activision Blizzard, it also now owns King, maker of one of the biggest mobile games in the world: Candy Crush. Microsoft now owns King, maker of mobile smash hit Candy Crush.

Does Microsoft own Call of Duty? ›

In the simplest terms, Microsoft now owns the rights to a lot of really big, really profitable IPs like Call of Duty from the Activision fold, Diablo and Overwatch from Blizzard, and Activision's mobile publisher King Games. You know - that lot who make Candy Crush.

Did Microsoft win the Activision deal? ›

British regulators on Friday gave final approval to Microsoft's $69 billion acquisition of the video game publisher Activision Blizzard, the last major obstacle for a deal that at one point seemed to be falling apart because of government objections on both sides of the Atlantic.

Is Microsoft overpaying for Activision? ›

Did Microsoft Overpay for Activision Blizzard? Most people think that Microsoft overpaid with the $70 billion price tag on Activision Blizzard. Not necessarily. People tend to look at this as a consolidation deal, where Microsoft buying a company at a decline, which is not.

Will the Microsoft Activision deal close? ›

Microsoft Closes $69 Billion Activision Deal, Overcoming Regulators' Objections. The megadeal could strengthen Microsoft's standing in the video game industry, after a year and a half of negotiations with regulators around the world. Kellen Browning reported from San Francisco, and David McCabe from Washington.

Is Activision Blizzard a billion dollar company? ›

By January 2021, the company's net value was estimated to be $72 billion based on its stock trading price due to the ongoing demand for video games from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia acquired 14.9 million shares of Activision Blizzard, valued at $1.4 billion, in February 2021.

Will Call of Duty come to Game Pass? ›

Call of Duty to go to Game Pass in gaming shake-up. Microsoft has torn up the rules of big video game launches by announcing its most eagerly awaited new title - Call of Duty: Black Ops 6 - will be available straight away to subscribers of its Game Pass service.

Is Palworld bought by Microsoft? ›

The game--known as "Pokemon with guns"--has seen a lot of Xbox marketing because of its inclusion on Game Pass, but that doesn't mean Microsoft is eyeing to acquire the studio. In fact, Pocketpair CEO Takuro Mizobe says no discussions have even taken place with the company.

How rich is Bobby Kotick? ›

Now leaving the company, Kotick is still set to make a tidy sum from the Microsoft acquisition. As it stands, Kotick's net worth is around $600 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

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