Microsoft has agreed to acquire publisher Activision Blizzard, the technology giant has announced. The deal is valued at $68.7bn (~£50.5bn), according to a report by Reuters.
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Microsoft has announced that both entities will continue to operate independently until the transaction closes.
A company-wide email posted on the Activision Blizzard website says that the deal is pending ‘regulatory approval’ and ‘other customary closing conditions’. Blizzard expects those conditions to be met “sometime in Microsoft’s fiscal 2023 year”, according to the post.
The acquisition could have ramifications for Activation Blizzard’s expansive esports operations. The publisher currently runs esports leagues for flagship titles Overwatch and Call of Duty, as well as StarCraft and World of Warcraft.
Activision Blizzard has been embroiled in controversy after California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a lawsuit last year alleging widespread workplace discrimination and sexual misconduct at the company. The embattled esports giant has since been accused of fostering a ‘frat boy’ culture and faced rampant allegations of inappropriate conduct.
The post on Blizzard’s website also revealed that Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick will continue in his role. Kotick has faced continued pressure to quit amidst the scandal.
In the post, Kotick told employees: “I am certain that our incredible talent and extraordinary games combined with our shared commitment to the very best workplace will enable us to grow in an increasingly more competitive race for leadership as gaming through the metaverse evolves.”
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Mike Sepso, Co-Founder of Activision Blizzard-owned brand Major League Gaming and a former Blizzard Executive, explained to Esports Insider the context surrounding the deal.
Sepso, who is currently CEO of Vindex, said: “Microsoft’s $68bn acquisition of Activision-Blizzard significantly deepens games as the company’s core strategy.”
“Across tech, industry leaders are placing their bets on gaming where consumer focuses are, whether it be video with Amazon and Google, Facebook with the metaverse and VR, or now Microsoft with cross-platform intellectual property and a subscription platform.”
In a post on the XBOX website, Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer said: “As we pursue that mission, it is incredibly exciting to announce that Microsoft has agreed to acquire Activision Blizzard.
“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.”
Esports Insider Says: This is an enormous deal and a considerable shakeup of existing ownership structures in gaming. $70bn is sizes of magnitude greater than any other acquisition in the games industry. Despite Activision Blizzard being steeped in controversy, Microsoft has taken the plunge as it looks to strengthen its position in interactive entertainment. It will undoubtedly come with implications for Blizzard’s esports IP, though just how its ecosystems will be affected remains to be seen.