Xbox to acquire Activision Blizzard, including RPG heavy-hitters Diablo and Warcraft
Following on from its acquisition of Bethesda, Microsoft and Xbox has another seismic acquisition that's going to rock the gaming industry - that of Activision Blizzard.
In a blog post on the official Xbox Wire news feed, Xbox CEO Phil Spencer announced that the teams and franchises of Activision Blizzard will be joining Xbox, Microsoft's gaming division. The deal, which is worth almost $70 billion, will see the various studios and franchises of A the Activision Blizzard company join Xbox. The deal will complete in mid-2023.
For RPG fans, the biggest headline of this acquisition relates to two huge RPG series controlled by Blizzard: Diablo and World of Warcraft. For gaming at large beyond our little genre-specific corner, the repercussions are significant, however.
From Activision Xbox will acquire Call of Duty, Crash Bandicoot, Spyro/Skylanders, Guitar Hero, and a range of legacy games and IP including the likes of Pitfall, King's Quest, and the classic Tony Hawk's games. From Blizzard, alongside Diablo and Warcraft Microsoft will gain control of Overwatch, Starcraft, Hearthstone, and Heroes of the Storm. King, the third arm of the company, will give Xbox a heavy-hitter in the mobile space - Candy Crush.
The development studios included in the purchase will include Blizzard Entertainment, Beenox, Demonware, Digital Legends, High Moon Studios, Infinity Ward, King, Major League Gaming, Radical Entertainment, Raven Software, Sledgehammer Games, Toys for Bob, and Treyarch.
As with Microsoft's acquisition of Elder Scrolls and Fallout publisher Bethesda, it is likely that even after completion the Activision brand will still continue to operate as a 'separate' publisher arm. Bethesda's Starfield, for instance, will be 'published' by Bethesda rather than by Xbox Game Studios - though ultimately it is still an Xbox Studios game, and is Xbox and PC exclusive. While we don't know the exclusivity status of Activision and Blizzard games going forwards, it seems likely they will follow a similar trajectory to those of Bethesda.
One thing that has been promised, however, is that much of the Activision Blizzard catalog will enter Xbox Game Pass, as happened with Bethesda. Phil Spencer promises that Xbox "will offer as many Activision Blizzard games as we can within Xbox Game Pass and PC Game Pass," including both all-new titles and back-catalog games. All first-party Xbox games enter Game Pass on release day.
The deal follows months of turmoil at Activision Blizzard after countless accusations of impropriety, harassment, and other generally despicable behavior across the company. Spencer vaguely alludes to this in the announcement, reaffirming Microsoft's commitment to creating a positive and inclusive space - while also noting that studio autonomy is key to their acquisition approach. Nevertheless, it's likely that the new owner will be scrutinizing Activision Blizzard's culture closely and making changes. Not mentioned in the announcement is current Activision CEO Bobby Kotick, who has been under pressure to resign. He will be staying with the company at least until the deal completes - but there's no confirmation of his fate beyond that.