Microsoft closes $69 billion deal to buy Activision Blizzard

October 16, 2023

Microsoft finally is closing its $69 billion purchase of Activision Blizzard633 days after announcing its bid, reports Axios.

The deal is the biggest acquisition in Microsoft’s history, and the biggest ever in the games industry. It’s also the outcome of months of lobbying and deal-tweaking by the $2 trillion tech giant in the face of skepticism from regulators in the United States, United Kingdom, and European Union.

Axios notes that an altered version of the deal will involve French mega-publisher Ubisoft purchasing control of cloud gaming rights to Activision Blizzard’s current and upcoming console and PC games.

The companies announced the deal hours after getting the green light from U.K. regulators. Microsoft swiftly rolled out a video montage of its gaming characters and Activision’s Call of Duty cast, set to Rogers and Hammerstein’s classic song, “Oh What a Beautiful Morning.”

Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick said in a memo to employees that he would remain in his position—reporting to Microsoft gaming chief Phil Spencer, through the end of 2023.

The U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority had blocked the deal in the spring over concerns that Microsoft could substantially reduce competition in the unproven cloud-gaming market, in which players access a game via a remote server as they would a Netflix movie that’s streamed from afar.

E.U. officials had approved the merger in the spring, while the U.S. Federal Trade Commission continues to challenge it in court—although without the power to block it from closing.

The purchase will bolster Microsoft’s already large 23-studio gaming division with control of Activision Blizzard’s three massive gaming divisions, which employ around 13,000 people.

Activision’s collection of studios primarily develop the popular first-person shooter military series, Call of Duty, which even in a recent off year, was the second-best-selling game in the United States.

Blizzard produces long-running massively multiplayer game World of Warcraft as well as the Diablo and Overwatch series.

King—acquired by Activision Blizzard in February 2016 for US$5.9 billion—operates Candy Crush Saga, one of the top mobile games of the last decade.

The deal should bolster Microsoft’s gaming operation, which is in distant third place in the game console market, behind Nintendo’s Switch and Sony’s PlayStation 5.

Microsoft has spent recent years presenting itself not just as a game-maker and console-seller, but as a service-provider through its all-you-can-play Xbox Game Pass subscription service. It is expected to add Activision Blizzard games to that service, although Activision has said that the next Call of Duty won’t go there right away.

Research contact: @axios