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Microsoft plans to acquire Activision Blizzard for $68.7B

Activision Blizzard employees will ultimately report to Phil Spencer as CEO

white Xbox logo floats over glitchy green “clouds” Illustration: James Bareham/Polygon
Maddy Myers has run Polygon’s games section since 2020 as deputy editor. She has worked in games journalism since 2007, at Kotaku, The Mary Sue, and the Boston Phoenix.

Microsoft plans to acquire Activision Blizzard, publisher of some of the most popular games on the planet (from World of Warcraft to Call of Duty), as well as the studios currently embroiled in multiple lawsuits related to accusations of gender discrimination in its workplace, the company announced Tuesday. Xbox boss Phil Spencer will serve as the CEO of Microsoft Gaming and oversee Activision Blizzard once the transaction is finalized.

The deal is worth $68.7 billion, Microsoft said, the largest acquisition in the company’s history.

In a blog post about the acquisition, Spencer said that Microsoft “will offer as many Activision Blizzard games as we can within Xbox Game Pass and PC Game Pass, both new titles and games from Activision Blizzard’s incredible catalog.”

As far as the discrimination lawsuits, Spencer’s blog post and the announcement post from Microsoft made no direct mention of the situation. However, Spencer’s post includes this paragraph about workplace culture: “As a company, Microsoft is committed to our journey for inclusion in every aspect of gaming, among both employees and players. We deeply value individual studio cultures. We also believe that creative success and autonomy go hand-in-hand with treating every person with dignity and respect. We hold all teams, and all leaders, to this commitment.”

Activision Blizzard is currently facing multiple lawsuits and federal investigations, as well as calls for its CEO, Bobby Kotick, to resign over serious allegations of sexual harassment and assault at the publisher and its studios, including Blizzard. Kotick will remain CEO of Activision Blizzard until Microsoft’s acquisition of the publisher closes, which is expected to complete in 2023, Kotick said in an email to employees.

“Until we receive all the necessary regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions are satisfied, which we expect to be sometime in Microsoft’s fiscal 2023 year ending June 30, 2023, we will continue to operate completely autonomously,” Kotick said. “I will continue as our CEO with the same passion and enthusiasm I had when I began this amazing journey in 1991.”

In November 2021, after more than 1,000 Activision Blizzard employees signed a letter calling for Bobby Kotick to resign, Phil Spencer said in an internal email obtained by Bloomberg that Microsoft was “evaluating all aspects of our relationship with Activision Blizzard and making ongoing proactive adjustments.” Apparently, that evaluation included an appraisal of Microsoft’s pocketbook, and the possibility that it could afford to purchase Activision Blizzard outright.

The deal will further extend Microsoft’s position in the games industry as a whole. Microsoft’s announcement outlines the huge scope of the purchase:

With Activision Blizzard’s nearly 400 million monthly active players in 190 countries and three billion-dollar franchises, this acquisition will make Game Pass one of the most compelling and diverse lineups of gaming content in the industry. Upon close, Microsoft will have 30 internal game development studios, along with additional publishing and esports production capabilities.

Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard dwarfs the Xbox maker’s previous industry-changing and massive buyout of ZeniMax Media, parent company of Bethesda Softworks, for $7.5 billion in 2020. The addition of Activision Blizzard’s studios, which include multiple Call of Duty studios, mobile developer King, and the teams behind Diablo, Hearthstone, Overwatch, and World of Warcraft, will bring Xbox Game Studios’ number of internal studios to 30.

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