OPINION: Microsoft to Buy Activision-Blizzard for $70 Billion

Photo by Tadas Sar from Unsplash

Microsoft will buy game company Activision-Blizzard for nearly $70 billion. The deal won’t close until 2023 at the earliest, but it will happen. That’s it. That’s the article.

How cool is that, though? It’s the biggest game transaction since Microsoft bought Bethesda for under $8 billion last year. Blizzard has been a gaming staple since World of Warcraft broke out in 2005. Activision is mostly known for Call of Duty, but they were also behind the Guitar Hero and Wolfenstein franchises. As a gamer, Activision and Blizzard helped define my teenage years. I’ve been playing World of Warcraft since I was nine years old. I dabbled in Overwatch and Hearthstone. I’ve bought almost every Call of Duty since Modern Warfare 3 and that came out in 2011. I spent most of my teenage years in stereotypical gamer fashion, playing Call of Duty on the couch while drinking Mountain Dew and eating Doritos.

What makes this acquisition so important for these titles is that they are largely seen as dying. The glory days of World of Warcraft are far behind us, compounding with the gaming environment simply not valuing massive multiplayer online games (MMOs) like they used to. Overwatch is notably at a standstill, not having even received a major update in over a year. Meanwhile, Call of Duty games continue to launch annually but with an ever-growing number of irritated fans who are upset with the direction that recent titles have gone. Throw in the very serious sexual allegation scandal from last summer, and Activision-Blizzard has been trending in the wrong direction.

It’s easy to be cynical. Corporations like to give us faith and then remind us that they’re only in it for the money. I get it, but I still find myself feeling hopeful about what Microsoft plans to do. Microsoft has done some great things with gaming over the last few years: Forza Horizon, Age of Empires, Sea of Thieves, Ori, and the Will of the Wisps… the list goes on. A new Fable title has even been announced. Of course, it wouldn’t be complete to talk about Microsoft in gaming and not mention the work they did with their beloved Halo franchise. It started when they released the Master Chief Collection as a convenient way to play all of the classic games in the series. And of course, Halo Infinite’s 2021 release was a massive success. Short of a new Viva Pinata game, Microsoft has done just about everything that could be asked of them.

But the games they’ve released aren’t what seems to separate Microsoft from the rest of the gaming industry. In the five years since Xbox Game Pass was launched in 2017, it has changed the landscape of how people can play video games today. Now, I can boot up the Xbox app on my computer and play a seemingly endless selection of games, from indie gems to the biggest names in gaming. I played Dragon Quest 11, on my PC, for essentially free thanks to Game Pass. Halo Infinite, MLB the Show 22, and Forza Horizon 5 were all day-one titles, and they regularly cost around 60 dollars a piece.

In the end, though, all of this is fluff. None of this directly translates to co-opting one of the biggest names in the gaming industry. Truth be told, we don’t have a suitable point of comparison. That’s how big this transaction is. But I’m choosing to have faith. I’m choosing to believe that Microsoft is going to bring some glory back to classic franchises. Partly because 

they’re a big part of my identity and I want nothing more than to see them shine again. But partly because Microsoft seems to view the gaming industry as an essential part of their brand going forward. And Activision-Blizzard has some of the biggest names for them to continue to expand it.