Yesterday, Microsoft shook the gaming industry with the announcement of the acquisition of Activision Blizzard. It’s the biggest deal in the history of the gaming industry at $68.7 billion. With the acquisition, In addition to all of the other IPs that they have, Microsoft will now have ahold of notable franchises including Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Diablo, Overwatch, Candy Crush, StarCraft, and more. Following the announcement, many, including Sony have talked about what this means for everything going forward. Newly minted Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer gave his thoughts on the deal from how he hopes to address and fix the workplace complaints that Activision Blizzard faces and why he’s excited about the future of some games that haven’t been released in a while.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Spencer talked about the workplace complaints and allegations faced by Activision Blizzard. “I believe the leaders there believe in the opportunity they have in their plan,” noting his confidence that the issues will be resolved. He also talked about bringing in unionized workers, saying that his company will aim to empower its new employees to “do their best work.” Talking about unions, he said “I’m going to be honest, I don’t have a lot of personal experience with unions. I’ve been at Microsoft for 33 years. So I’m not going to try to come across as an expert on this, but I’ll say we’ll be having conversations about what empowers them to do their best work, which as you can imagine in a creative industry, is the most important thing for us.”
According to Spencer, this deal began last year. Part of the process was Microsoft absorbing the many reported challenges Activision Blizzard faced over the past year. “We spent time with the Activision team looking at the incidents, looking at employee polls and then had a good discussion with them about their plan, both the progress they’ve been making and what their plan was,” Spencer said, adding that during the lengthy regulatory process Microsoft would have no involvement with Activision’s legal woes. “We had to look at that forward plan and ensure we had a kind of confidence in that.”
The Microsoft Gaming CEO talked about his excitement for bringing back some of Activision Blizzard’s more dormant franchises. ” I was looking at the IP list, I mean let’s go!” Spencer said. “King’s Quest, Guitar Hero, … I should know this but I think they got HeXen.” Spencer also talked about developer Toys for Bob who worked on games such as Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time before becoming a support team for the Call of Duty games. “We’re hoping that we’ll be able to work with them when the deal closes to make sure we have resources to work on franchises that I love from my childhood, and that the teams really want to get,” Spencer said. “I’m looking forward to these conversations. I really think it’s about adding resources and increasing capability.”
While he is excited for what this new acquisition could mean for the future, Spencer is wary about the tech companies coming into the gaming industry as opposed to those who have history in the space like Nintendo and Sony. ” They have a long history in video games,” he said. “Nintendo’s not going to do anything that damages gaming in the long run because that’s the business they’re in. Sony is the same and I trust them. … Valve’s the same way. When we look at the other big tech competitors for Microsoft: Google has search and Chrome, Amazon has shopping, Facebook has social, all these large-scale consumer businesses. … The discussion we’ve had internally, where those things are important to those other tech companies for how many consumers they reach, gaming can be that for us. I think we do have a unique point of view, which is not about how everything has to run on a single device or platform. That’s been the real turning point for us looking at gaming as a consumer opportunity that could have similar impact on Microsoft that some of those other scale consumer businesses do for other big tech competitors. And it’s been great to see the support we’ve had from the company and the board.”
When the deal was announced, Microsoft and Xbox said that the company will try to make as many titles available on all platforms as they can. One thought everyone had on their mind when this news broke, is whether or not Activision Blizzard games will be available on other platforms, notably PlayStation. In a statement made to The Wall Street Journal, the company said “We expect that Microsoft will abide by contractual agreements and continue to ensure Activision games are multiplatform.” Spencer released a statement today on Twitter talking about the relationship between Microsoft and Sony.
Had good calls this week with leaders at Sony. I confirmed our intent to honor all existing agreements upon acquisition of Activision Blizzard and our desire to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation. Sony is an important part of our industry, and we value our relationship.
— Phil Spencer (@XboxP3) January 20, 2022