This takeover therefore involves two companies. On one side, Microsoft, the giant that owns Windows and Xbox. They have an almost infinite ticket board and for 5 years, they have been investing heavily in gaming, changing strategy after 15 years of fighting against Sony. Before they produced consoles and dedicated games, and now they are buying studios with a vengeance to include them in the offer of their workhorse: the Game Pass.
A subscription that includes hundreds of games and can be installed wherever possible: phone, tablet, PC, streaming, consoles and even connected TVs. Battle horse, that’s for sure, but also a bit of a “Trojan horse”, it must be admitted. The objective is therefore to make this Netflix of video games a must that even Sony and its PlayStation, leader for 20 years, can no longer ignore.. And this takeover is likely to change the situation.
On the other side of the transaction, we have Activision Blizzard, publisher and ancestral developer, which for more than 20 years has been developing strong franchises. The firm quotes nearly 50 billion on the stock market, and is very successful on most platforms. On mobile, they excel thanks to Call of Duty Mobile and Candy Crush, on consoles, they are a hit thanks to Warzone, Call of Duty’s Battle Royale, and on PC, they have a very strong position thanks to the Blizzard division which produces Diablo, Overwatch, Starcraft, Warcraft and the MMORPG World of Warcraft. So this takeover is truly a very, very large suitcase of banknotes…
The amount of this takeover is 68.7 billion dollars, it is Microsoft’s largest takeover to date, ahead of Skype or LinkedIn which had cost Microsoft 8.5 billion and 26.2 billion. This is more than double, and it proves Microsoft’s investment in gaming. And, even crazier, it’s also the biggest acquisition in the industry and by very very very very far, the previous one was just a few days ago, with the acquisition of Zynga by Take Two, for 12 billion of dollars.
As much to tell you that we are not really on the same proportions. And for comparison, 68.7 billion is almost the same price as what Disney paid to afford Fox. With Activision Blizzard, Microsoft can now boast of being the 3rd largest player in the industry behind the leader Tencent, and behind Sony. But, concretely, for the players, what will this takeover change?
For now, the takeover has just been formalized, but as often, it still needs to be validated by the institutions that ensure the balance between competing boxes. Microsoft has played a dangerous game in recent years, buying many studios, but especially two huge publishers starting with Bethesda, in 2023, which already strengthened Xbox’s first-party franchises while raising some questions about their future exclusivity.
In their catalog, we can cite the spiritual sequel to Skyrim, whose future outside the Xbox ecosystem is still under debate. You can be sure that if the positions taken on the future of these licenses were so vague, it was partly to reassure and secure other takeovers, like the one we just experienced with Activision Blizzard.
Pending validation, at Activision-Blizzard, it’s status quo. Even controversial Activision Blizzard boss Bobby Kotick, whose position has been undermined for months by several cases, remains in place for now.. It is likely that after the validation of the takeover, he will have to report to his new boss, Phil Spencer, the boss of Xbox, who had also strongly criticized Kotick a few weeks ago. It is therefore the calm before the storm, and it is very likely that things will move very quickly just after the validation of the buyout.
And this validation, it does not seem to be 100% acquired. Some analysts are already beginning to express doubts about the ultra-dominant position that Microsoft offers itself with this purchase.. Activision Blizzard has cross-functional franchises, which are very rarely platform exclusives. Xbox will therefore have to be very clear in the future as to whether or not the titles it owns and publishes are exclusive.. And there, Spencer won’t really be able to play on words anymore… In the meantime, what can we expect from the side of the players in the weeks to come?
If the takeover is validated, very quickly, the Activision-Blizzard titles will probably join the Game Pass, as was the case for the Bethesda catalog. Call of Duty, Overwatch, Warcraft, Starcraft, Diablo, Tony Hawk’s: all of this will logically join Microsoft’s gargantuan subscription catalog, and theoretically at no additional monthly cost.
The question of redemption and exclusives will also arise very quickly for Call of Duty, a franchise with annualized episodes, and whose sales have declined over the years, in favor of the franchise’s service games, which are Warzone and Call of Duty. Mobile. On this, Spencer has been quite clear in the past by saying that he does not want to deprive gaming communities of their favorite games.. We can therefore understand that Warzone will remain cross-platform, just like Minecraft was, after the takeover of Mojang by Microsoft. No fear therefore for Battle Royale enthusiasts, on the other hand, as regards the episodes of the main franchise, which are released each year, the question may arise.
But given that Microsoft only looks at Game Pass subscription figures to assess its performance in Gaming, we can say that, naturally, they will let the episodes come out everywhere, so as not to deprive fans, and that the games will be just “available ‘day one and at no extra cost, in the Game Pass”, which is already big news for fans of the franchise, and should attract a lot of new subscribers.
We can ask ourselves the same question for World of Warcraft, losing ground against Final Fantasy XIV Online, and which could with Game Pass integration and a lifting of the subscription, imagine, we can dream, become an incredible additional asset for Microsoft and its catalog… From there to hoping for a console port, there is only one step…
If the Game Pass gains as much weight and includes, day one and without additional cost, the titles of the now 35 studios of the Xbox family, it is a safe bet that the market will be strongly impacted. With Bethesda titles and the production of Activision Blizzard, if Xbox decides to lock everything to its ecosystem, to its Game Pass, a lot of players risk seeing red.
The war of consoles, which was a war of position, will indeed become a war of service, Game Pass on one side, Sony’s Spartacus on the other. The Japanese giant must indeed present its new service very soon, which will supposedly merge the PS Plus and PS Now offers, within a rich catalog, with massive stakes.. This acquisition, Activision-Blizzard-Microsoft, is a new cartridge in the barrel of Xbox within this future duel of services.
It remains to be seen what PlayStation will present to reassure its users, who are seeing more and more formerly third-party publishers joining the Xbox studio family. One thing is certain, the Game Pass is only growing and expanding to be universal and essential. A fight that has only just begun…