The Five Most Expensive Video Game Developer Acquisitions Of All Time

The Five Most Expensive Video Game Developer Acquisitions Of All Time

The video game industry has been on a buying spree in recent years, and the price of each acquisition only seems to climb. With Microsoft announcing it will acquire Activision-Blizzard for an industry-record amount, we thought we’d take a look back at the five most expensive acquisitions in gaming history.

As we look down the list of acquisitions, a trend emerges. See if you can spot it.

5. Activision Blizzard acquires King: $US5.9 billion

Activision Blizzard’s decision to acquire Maltese mobile developer King in February 2017 for $US5.9 billion, for a time, topped the list of most expensive games developer acquisitions of all time. King is best known for its world-beating puzzle game Candy Crush Saga. Its first major game featuring Activision-Blizzard IP, Crash Bandicoot: On The Run! released on Android and iOS in 2021. The hallmark of King’s games is addictive puzzle-solving with a lot of on-screen juice, combined with aggressive monetisation. Candy Crush‘s popularity endures to this day, though even its most dedicated players are starting to feel pretty run down.

4. Microsoft acquires ZeniMax Media: $US8.1 billion

One of the most recent buys on this list, Microsoft acquired ZeniMax Media, which included Bethesda and all of its associated studios, for $US8.1 billion in 2021. Bethesda is home to numerous valuable brands, characters, and IP which would have been attractive to Microsoft. To bring FalloutElder ScrollsDoomWolfensteinDishonored, and the forthcoming Starfield under the Xbox umbrella is a massive win for Microsoft, which has struggled to find platform exclusives and now looks to fill out its popular Game Pass service. Game Pass is a hungry beast, and we fully expect to see Microsoft reappearing in our most expensive video game developer acquisitions lists again in the future.

3. Tencent acquires Supercell: $US8.6 billion

Chinese mega-publisher Tencent acquired mobile developer Supercell for $US8.6 billion in 2016. Supercell is best known for creating the popular mobile game Clash of Clans and its spin-off Clash Royale. Both titles, and Clash Royale‘s vibrant esports scene, remain immensely popular to this day. This single purchase reigned supreme as the most expensive acquisition in video game history for five long years. The record stood unchallenged until it was usurped on January 10, 2021, by:

2. Take-Two Interactive acquires Zynga: $US12.7 billion

Take-Two Interactive, the parent company of Grand Theft Auto developer Rockstar Games, acquired mobile game developer Zynga for $US12.7 billion. Zynga has been around for many years, finding early success with social Facebook games like FarmVille. It would go onto greater success after moving to mobile platforms, with games like Words With FriendsCSR Racing, and Draw Something. It has spun the With Friends vertical into one of its most popular brands. Boggle With Friends, Chess With Friends, Hanging With Friends, and Matching With Friends all appear in the same series. In 2012, it struck a deal with Hasbro to create board game versions of its most popular mobile titles. Take-Two clearly values Zynga’s library of games, and we watch with interest to see how exactly it will leverage its massive new mobile powerhouse.

1. Microsoft acquires Activision-Blizzard: $US68.7 billion

By far, the video game industry record holder for most money spent on an acquisition goes to Microsoft. It spent just shy of $US70 billion on acquiring Activision-Blizzard-King. The announcement took the industry off guard and came following a year of turmoil and scandal for ABK. It’s understood that Xbox boss Phil Spencer decided to make the move after seeing the company’s troubles, and wondered if making an offer would yield a positive result. Though besieged Activision-Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick was initially resistant to the idea, he was reportedly overruled by an eager ABK board. As a wholly-owned subsidiary of Xbox Game Studios, all of Activision-Blizzard’s titles will be fed into the hungry beast that is Game Pass. Its mobile gaming arm, King Games, creators of Candy Crush Saga, provide a new and lucrative avenue for Xbox to enter the mobile market. The deal is set to finalise in early 2023.

So, did you spot the trend? That’s right: four of the five most expensive acquisitions in video game history involve studios and publishers that specialise in mobile games. This provides a clear explanation for why so many games, even in the AAA space, are adopting mobile monetisation models. Mobile games have long tails, keep players captive, and remain popular long after release — design facets that have found their way into more traditional blockbuster games. This influence has had an outsized effect on the industry, with even the biggest AAA titles now adopting aggressive monetisation practices similar to that seen in the mobile space. Who better to help engineer these changes than the teams and studios that know the most about it? Cynical? Perhaps. Bad for players? Debatable. Savvy business? Absolutely.

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