Report: Microsoft Closing In On $96 Billion Deal To Buy Activision

Report: Microsoft Closing In On $96 Billion Deal To Buy Activision
Image: Activision Blizzard / Kotaku

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: 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 (A$96bn) “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.

Comments

  • https://news.microsoft.com/2022/01/18/microsoft-to-acquire-activision-blizzard-to-bring-the-joy-and-community-of-gaming-to-everyone-across-every-device/

    “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. Once the deal closes, the Activision Blizzard business will report to Phil Spencer, CEO, Microsoft Gaming.”

    It seems walking shit pile Kotick will live to see another day as head of Activision Blizzard, just reporting to Microsoft instead of the board of flunkies.

    • They say that for now, but then they’ll kick him out after. They only considered buying after the shitstorm going down because they can buy them for less, then fix them up and have a ton of studios with big IPs at a discount. Same reason Satya Nadella isnt ripping into Kotick. It’ll jeopardise the sale.
      I doubt there’ll be any antitrust stuff stopping them. They’ll only become the third biggest after the sale and there’s been bigger sales outside gaming where nothing has happened.

  • Damn Activision must be running out of cash to go along with the dwindling playerbases (mostly due the Lawsuit and the string of bullshit that they have pulled since 2018) If they are looking to be brought up by mircosoft

  • Well that explains the weird backflips in the past few weeks.
    Had they put financial pressure on Activision they would’ve been accused of manipulation.

  • Reports already that US antitrust authorities will be looking at this. Might result in the need for MS to divest some titles, studios, etc in order for it to go ahead. Wait and see!

    • Every merger and acquisition is looked at, its part of the process. The catch is since Blizzard is distressed, the number of complaints against the merger may be small since its a “rescue” of a failing company. Who has $96 billion and wants to clean up that mess?

      Its still only a dozen studios and IPs, despite Activision large capitalisation, they only have a few titles keeping them afloat.

      Microsoft still got a lot of competition from both publishers and platforms in gaming, but this will probably the last BIG purchase Microsoft can make.

      Also there appears to be no shareholder or employee resistance at this stage, which benefits any review.

      • It should be noted that any anti-trust suite would be met with that Microsoft isn’t competing against Nintendo & Sony (and by extension Ubisoft, TakeTwo, etc), but Facebook, Google, Amazon, Tencent, et al. Speaking as such, no one has pulled up Tencent yet, so to think anti-trust would start firing at this is being a touch hypocritical.

        I believe there is still plenty of length left in possible acquisitions, and those would be likely EA and THQ Nordic / Embracer.

  • Sony is currently sitting on $2 Trillion in debt, about 3/4 of that due this year. Whilst Sony could restructure to buy one of the big western publishers, it’d be much more likely it’d merge with another Japanese publisher. Given its recent investments in Anime, I wouldn’t be surprised if Sony merged with either Square or Namco Bandai considering their anime holdings along with their games.

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