Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard Acquisition Could Impact Game Developers

Microsoft is acquiring gaming giant Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion. That will not only make Microsoft one of the largest game producers in the world (with control of iconic game franchises such as “Call of Duty” and “Warcraft”), but also unleash massive changes in the gaming industry—which could impact how game-centric software developers, designers, and other technologists work over the next several years.

In its acquisition announcement, Microsoft made it clear that it will leverage Activision Blizzard’s assets to compete in the cloud and the “metaverse,” the latter a buzzword for nascent virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) ecosystems. “Gaming is the most dynamic and exciting category in entertainment across all platforms today and will play a key role in the development of metaverse platforms,” Satya Nadella, chairman and CEO of Microsoft, wrote in a statement accompanying the announcement. “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.”

Microsoft will also retool Activision Blizzard’s culture, which before the acquisition was under intense scrutiny due to allegations of an abusive culture and discriminatory hiring practices. “Microsoft is committed to our journey for inclusion in every aspect of gaming, among both employees and players. We deeply value individual studio cultures,” Phil Spencer, former head of Xbox and now CEO of Microsoft Gaming, wrote in an internal email picked up by The Verge. “We also believe that creative success and autonomy go hand-in-hand with treating every person with dignity and respect. We hold all teams, and all leaders, to this commitment. We’re looking forward to extending our culture of proactive inclusion to the great teams across Activision Blizzard.”

The deal is subject to government approval, but should it pass, Microsoft says it will become the third-largest gaming company by revenue, behind Tencent and Sony. (Microsoft’s previous acquisition of a major gaming company, ZeniMax Media, was comparatively small, at $7.5 billion.) How it leverages Activision Blizzard’s assets could have a sizable impact on how technologists build, maintain, market, and consume games for many years to come. 

For example, the Activision Blizzard acquisition could kick off a round of gaming-industry consolidations, which could impact the job opportunities available. And now that it’s an even bigger player, Microsoft could make certain strategic decisions that govern how smaller studios and game-makers submit their work for consideration. Whatever the future holds, it’s indisputable that this acquisition is a very, very big deal for everyone interested in gaming.