It was cute at first. When Xbox head Phil Spencer took the stage at E3 2018 and announced the acquisition of five notable studios – Undead Labs, Playground Games, Ninja Theory, Compulsion Games and The Initiative – the air inside the Microsoft Theater turned electric. It felt like the company was righting a wrong in its business plan and finally building an internal roster of exciting games that it could offer exclusively on Xbox platforms. You know, a few friends to keep Master Chief company. Today's announcement that Microsoft is buying Activision Blizzard, the largest third-party publisher in the video game industry, doesn't feel as harmless.
Hit play on the player above to hear the podcast and follow along with the transcript below.This transcript was automatically generated, and then edited for clarity in its current form. There may be some differences between the audio and the text. Welcome back to Talking Tech. You likely heard me a couple days ago talking about Microsoft's huge deal to acquire Activision Blizzard, which is the video game publisher that makes a ton of big titles, including Call of Duty, World of Warcraft through Blizzard, and a host of others. The big concern for some video game players, particularly owners of a PlayStation, is whether they should be worried that one of the industry's biggest games and Call of Duty may no longer be on the platform.
In 2014, Microsoft bought Minecraft's developer Mojang for what seemed, at the time, an eye-popping figure: $2.5bn (£1.8bn). It was the first in a series of bullish video-game studio acquisitions by the tech giant, whose games division has been led by executive Phil Spencer, a long-time advocate for video games within Microsoft and the wider business world, for the past eight years. More studios followed, for undisclosed amounts: beloved Californian comedy-game artists Double Fine, UK studio Ninja Theory, RPG specialists Obsidian Entertainment. It seemed that under Spencer's leadership, Microsoft was cementing its commitment to the Xbox console and the video-games business by investing in what makes games great: the people who make them. Then came 2020's deal to acquire Zenimax (and with it Bethesda), for a properly astonishing $7.5bn.
On Tuesday tech giant Microsoft announced its proposed purchase of gaming company Activision Blizzard for nearly $69 billion. The deal would grant Microsoft ownership over globally recognized franchises like Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, and Candy Crush, to name a few. It also creates a new division in the company, Microsoft Gaming, to be led by the company's head of its Xbox division, Phil Spencer. For Activision Blizzard, this couldn't have come at a better time. The company, run by CEO Bobby Kotick since 1991, has been the subject of scrutiny and lawsuits based on numerous allegations of discrimination, sexual harassment, and a toxic workplace culture at the company.
Microsoft is trying to buy onetime PlayStation figurehead Crash Bandicoot (and the rest of Activision Blizzard) in a deal that would rewrite gaming history, and now Sony is striking back. On Monday, the company announced plans to acquire Bungie--the creator of Destiny and Halo--for $3.6 billion dollars. We're in the midst of an intense period of consolidation for the gaming industry and with Microsoft-owned Bethesda hinting that its upcoming Starfield and Elder Scrolls VI games will be exclusive to the Xbox and PC, gamers are (rightfully) worried about their favorite multi-platform games disappearing inside the walled console gardens of their respective owners. Destiny has a huge audience on PlayStation, Xbox, and PC alike. Fortunately, it sounds like that won't be changing in the near future.