Microsoft’s quest to acquire Activision Blizzard King has been a longer and more arduous one than anyone likely imagined when it was first announced back in early 2022. At the time of this writing the fate of the Activision Blizzard deal is still very much undecided whether the deal will ultimately clear its regulatory hurdles, not taking anything as granted. At this point it seems more doubtful than ever given the CMA’s recent decision to block the merger. Although Microsoft could potentially close the merger without the CMA’s approval, it is a massive blow nonetheless.
It has been anything but smooth sailing for Microsoft and Activision. The two companies’ merger has been met with major obstacles from the European Commission, CMA and the U.S. FTC, with the latter filing a lawsuit to prevent the merger.
And then there is Sony. Sony has mounted a fierce effort to sway regulators to block the deal. The point of contention surrounding the deal has largely been on the fate of the Call of Duty franchise. But in reality, ABK is much more than just Call of Duty, something that seems to have gotten lost somewhere in the ongoing discussion over the deal’s merits. So just what exactly will Microsoft be getting if it does ultimately succeed in bringing ABK into its fold? Let’s have a look at what that $68 billion dollars buys in the video game industry.
The Activision Blizzard deal grand prize: Call of Duty
The Call of Duty series needs little introduction as the hottest franchise in gaming. And it’s still going strong into its 20th year, with 2022s Modern Warfare II the best-selling game of that year, marking the fourth year in a row a Call of Duty game has topped video game sales in the U.S. It’s no wonder Microsoft has its eye on this prize. To get Call of Duty on Game Pass would be a huge win for Xbox gamers. It would also put Xbox in a much stronger position should it gain control of the franchise.
With that said, there has been much made over that possibility, with Sony being the most vocal opponent. The PlayStation maker has stated that losing access to Call of Duty would irreparably harm the PlayStation brand, in spite of Microsoft’s offer to keep the series on PlayStation for the next ten years—a deal which PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan rebuked as “inadequate.” Sony has even suggested even if it kept the franchise on PlayStation, Microsoft could sabotage the PlayStation version by making it buggier.
Microsoft has entered into agreements with several other parties—including Nintendo and Nvidia—to keep Call of Duty on other platforms for the next ten years if the Activision Blizzard merger finalizes.
King’s mobile games & Xbox’s plans for mobile game store
King, which was acquired by Activision Blizzard for $5.9 billion in 2016, is a juggernaut in the realm of mobile gaming. The Maltese developer/publisher is the owner of powerhouse mobile gaming IPs like Candy Crush Saga, Bubble Witch Saga, Pet Rescue Saga and more. King has also handled some of Activision’s mobile offerings as in Crash Bandicoot: On the Run! and Call of Duty: Mobile.
Why is King important? Because Microsoft intends to go head-to-head with rivals Google and Apple in the mobile gaming market. As early as next year, the Redmond company looks to launch its own Xbox mobile platform. In order to stand toe-to-toe with the Google Play and Apple storefronts, the Xbox mobile store will need all the heavy hitters it can get. And with King’s mobile titles (not to mention Blizzard’s own Hearthstone) it may at least have a fighting chance.
As Microsoft itself said,
Microsoft currently has no meaningful presence in mobile gaming and the Transaction will bring much needed expertise in mobile game development, marketing and advertising.”
Activision Blizzard’s Online & Esports titles
Like other industry giants, Activision Blizzard has invested heavily in esports, with most of its esports initiatives centered around Call of Duty and Overwatch. Activision runs the Call of Duty League (CDL), while Blizzard manages not only Overwatch League but also Major League Gaming Corp. (MLG) professional esports gaming leagues.
Not to go unmentioned here is the hugely popular MMORPG World of Warcraft, which hosts a variety of esports tournaments through its Arena World Championship series.
Activision Blizzard’s Classic franchises
Activision Blizzard also owns several classic game series going all the way back to the early years of gaming, including some that have been dormant for years. Could some beloved classic games be making a return once the deal concludes? Microsoft’s CEO of Gaming Phil Spencer has expressed an interest in reviving some of these gaming icons, so there is reason for hope.
The classic game franchises in question? They include the following.
- Crash Bandicoot
- Spyro the Dragon
- King’s Quest
And that is by no means a comprehensive list.
The Activision Blizzard deal’s hidden gem: Activision Blizzard Studios
Not to be forgotten in all this is a film production company, Activision Blizzard Studios. The studio was founded in 2015 following the release of the Warcraft movie. The studio focuses on bringing Activision Blizzard’s video game IPs to the big screen. A Call of Duty movie was announced all the way back in 2015, but is apparently in production limbo.
What can we expect once the Activision Blizzard deal is done?
If Microsoft succeeds in buying Activision Blizzard, it will mean a huge win not only for the Xbox brand but for those who game on Xbox—whether it be on console, Windows PC, newer Samsung smart TVs, or on mobile devices and Chromebooks via the Xbox App.
While no one could say for sure what we’ll see from ABK in the future, what we can say is that Microsoft tends to go hands-off when it comes to their studios. We’ve seen this with Bethesda and Mojang, and there’s no reason to expect it would be any different with ABK. However, Phil Spencer said in an interview with Wired,
I’m excited about getting to sit down with the teams at Activision and Blizzard and King to talk about back catalog and opportunities that we might have.”
Likely he speaks for all Xbox fans.
Featured image via Businesswire.com.