Microsoft agreed on Tuesday to buy Activision Blizzard, the video game maker behind hits like Call of Duty and Candy Crush, for $68.7 billion in cash. It is the largest takeover in Microsoft’s 46-year history and a big bet on its future direction.
The deal plants Microsoft’s flag in the emerging battle for dominance in the so-called metaverse, the next-generation internet that melds the traditional online world with virtual and augmented reality.
It is also a challenge to regulators in Washington, as Democrats and Republicans alike have pushed to limit the power of technology giants.
In buying Activision, which faced accusations of sexual harassment and discrimination that senior executives ignored, Microsoft appears to be rebuffing a controversy about the game maker’s workplace culture. The allegations have weighed on Activision, with its shares falling 27 percent since California sued the company in July over the matter. The game maker’s shares are up nearly 40 percent in premarket trading. Microsoft’s shares fell by 1 percent after the announcement.
With three billion people actively playing games today and fueled by a new generation steeped in the joys of interactive entertainment, gaming is now the largest and fastest-growing form of entertainment. Today, Microsoft Corp. announced plans to acquire Activision Blizzard Inc., a leader in game development and interactive entertainment content publisher. This acquisition will accelerate the growth in Microsoft’s gaming business across mobile, PC, console and cloud and will provide building blocks for the metaverse.
When the transaction closes, Microsoft will become the world’s third-largest gaming company by revenue, behind Tencent and Sony. The planned acquisition includes iconic franchises from the Activision, Blizzard and King studios like “Warcraft,” “Diablo,” “Overwatch,” “Call of Duty” and “Candy Crush,” in addition to global eSports activities through Major League Gaming. The company has studios around the word with nearly 10,000 employees.
“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,” said Satya Nadella, chairman and CEO, Microsoft. “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.”