With three billion people actively playing games today and fueled by a new generation steeped in the joys of interactive entertainment, gaming is now the largest and fastest-growing form of entertainment. Today, Microsoft Corp. announced plans to acquire Activision Blizzard Inc., a leader in game development and interactive entertainment content publisher. This acquisition will accelerate the growth in Microsoft’s gaming business across mobile, PC, console and cloud and will provide building blocks for the metaverse.
The acquisition, which took place behind closed doors for around 68.7 billion dollars, will officially make Microsoft the third largest gaming company in the world, behind only Tencent (the Chinese investment giant who has more fingers than there are pies) and Sony, who remains a dominant force in the industry despite a relatively narrow library thanks exclusively to strong first-party support and residual goodwill from over 20 years ago when the PS2 had such a lead over its competition it was practically the whole darn industry.
From Satya Nadella, chairman and CEO of Microsoft:
“Gaming is the most dynamic and exciting category in entertainment across all platforms today and will play a key role in the development of 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.”
There are two reasons this new is bad. The first and most obvious is that it means Microsoft is getting dangerously close to monopolizing the major players in the gaming space. Between this, Zenimax, Obsidian, and the often forgotten Mojang grab that proved to be the first step in their long series of conquests, Microsoft has shown that no studio is safe from their ever-growing reach. Plus, while Microsoft has pledged that many of the most anticipated future titles will see universal releases across all platforms... well... that means nothing. They can change their mind on a dime, or just ensure that the non-Microsoft version of these highly anticipated games are so much worse that no one would want to play them.
The second reason ties into Activision-Blizzard itself. Those of you who have been paying attention likely know about the myriad of trouble that's surrounding the once-great gaming company, thanks largely to a hostile bro culture that was both encouraged and protected by their current CEO, Bobby Kotick. Not only will this acquisition basically wipe their slate clean (as Microsoft will likely foot the bill and erase even the tiniest of consequences they might have faced), but I'd wager that Bobby Kotick got an enormous paycheck for seeing the deal through. So not only will that SOB get to depart on his terms, he'll have enough golden parachutes to cover the whole pacific northwest when he does finally step down.
The gaming industry is no stranger to dark days. And while I wouldn't call this the darkest day we've ever had by a long shot, I think it's fairly convincing proof that we're still a long, long way from seeing the sun again.