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Bobby Kotick wanted to buy a gaming website to change Activision’s ‘public narrative,’ report says

A Wall Street Journal report said he was interested in sites like PC Gamer and Kotaku

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Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

In the lead-up to Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard, CEO Bobby Kotick was reportedly “eager to change the public narrative about the company,” according to a new report published Tuesday from the Wall Street Journal. Kotick’s alleged big idea? Buying a video game news publication like Kotaku or PC Gamer.

The Journal cited sources familiar with Kotick in the new report, which details how Activision Blizzard’s workplace controversies allegedly influenced the $68.7 billion deal announced on Tuesday. As part of the transition, Kotick will remain CEO at least until the deal’s closure, which is expected sometime in Microsoft’s 2023 fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2023. A separate Journal report, published Tuesday, suggests Kotick will leave the company once Microsoft takes over.

According to the Journal’s report, Kotick’s suggestion to buy a gaming website came about “in recent weeks.” It’s unclear whether or not that was before or after Microsoft stepped in to acquire the company. The Journal said Activision Blizzard’s “troubles” gave Microsoft a chance to come in with an offer.

“Deal-hungry Microsoft had long been interested in Activision and had discussed a potential acquisition in the past, some of those people said, but Mr. Kotick was cool to the idea until Microsoft offered him a graceful exit,” the Journal reported.

Kotick has led Activision since 1991, when he and a group of investors purchased the company. Later, he also helped orchestrate the Vivendi acquisition that merged Activision with Blizzard Entertainment, creating the new company Activision Blizzard, where he’s since served as CEO.

PC Gamer is a magazine and website owned by Future, a British media company. Kotaku was previously part of the Gizmodo Media Group, now called G/O Media. The CEO of the company is Jim Spanfeller, a person employees have famously expressed no confidence in. Coincidentally, Kotaku seemingly predicted this big idea: In 2010, the website published an April Fool’s Day post wherein it joked that Activision Blizzard and Kotick purchased the website, rebranding for the day as “Koticku.”

Activision Blizzard “disputed” the Journal’s report about gaming website acquisitions. A representative told Polygon it has no further comment.

Update: This story has been updated to include comment from Activision Blizzard.

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