In an extraordinary turn of events, Microsoft is getting near to a deal to buy Activision Blizzard, the Wall Street Journal reported today. This would not only be one of the most major shake-ups in the gaming industry in years but could also finally signal the end for its horrendous CEO, Bobby Kotick.
Activision Blizzard has been going through a tumultuous time after widespread issues of sexual harassment and trauma were revealed within the enormous company. Sued by the state of California following enormous exposure of the workplace culture, people have been calling for Kotick’s resignation and widespread change at the company, with only a battening down of hatches in response from the leadership. Goodness knows what happens to that now with Microsoft’s announcement today, but they are unfortunately pretending it’s not an issue. A Microsoft statement says,
“Bobby Kotick will continue to serve as CEO of Activision Blizzard, and he and his team will maintain their focus on driving efforts to further strengthen the company´s culture and accelerate business growth.”
[Update: 1/18/22, 2:55 p.m. ET: According to a follow-up report by The Wall Street Journal, sources familiar with the deal say Kotick is expected to depart the company after the deal is complete. Talk of a sale also apparently didn’t begin before Activision Blizzard’s stock began to tank even further after a November investigation by The Wall Street Journal about Kotick and misconduct at the company.]
Microsoft said purchasing Activision Blizzard Inc. would make the Xbox maker the third-largest gaming company “by revenue,” only behind Tencent and Sony.
The WSJ says the sale is valuing Activision Blizzard at $95 a share, for a total of $68.7bn “including net cash.”
It’s a wholesale purchase, getting Activision, Blizzard, and King, along with all the many studios they own and, of course, ownership of some of the biggest licenses in gaming.
Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, made everything feel slightly dirtier by describing this deal as playing “a key role in the development of our metaverse platforms.”
“We’re investing deeply in world-class content, community and the cloud to usher in a new era of gaming that puts players and creators first and makes gaming safe, inclusive and accessible to all,” Nadella added.
Thank God he somehow left out “NFTs.”
Another Microsoft post about the acquisition states,
“Over many decades, the studios and teams that make up Activision Blizzard have earned vast wellsprings of joy and respect from billions of people all over the world. We are incredibly excited to have the chance to work with the amazing, talented, dedicated people across Activision Publishing, Blizzard Entertainment, Beenox, Demonware, Digital Legends, High Moon Studios, Infinity Ward, King, Major League Gaming, Radical Entertainment, Raven Software, Sledgehammer Games, Toys for Bob, Treyarch and every team across Activision Blizzard.”
They make clear that the sale has yet to close and that the companies will operate independently until it does. Of course, this is a deal of such an enormous scale that it will likely come under close scrutiny regarding monopolies and antitrust issues.
What’s not mentioned anywhere in all these statements is the current catastrophic state of Activision Blizzard, the ongoing troubles, strikes, and miserable staff. Microsoft has a huge mess to clean up if the deal goes through. But perhaps it might mean that mess actually does start to be addressed.
Updated: 01/18/22, 9.00 a.m. ET: The headline has been updated to reflect the correct figure for the sale, after the Wall Street Journal’s report changed the figure from $50bn to $68.7bn.