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Microsoft acquires Activision Blizzard

All-cash deal to see Xbox maker pay $68.7bn for Call of Duty publisher, a 69% premium over its closing share price Monday

Microsoft has reached a deal to acquire Activision Blizzard, the company confirmed today.

Sarah E. Needleman with the Wall Street Journal broke the news this morning, saying the outlet's sources told it the Xbox maker was nearing an agreement to buy the Call of Duty company.

Six minutes later, Bloomberg's Dina Bass put a dollar figure on it, saying sources put the value of the deal at nearly $70 billion.

That's a significant premium over Activision Blizzard's market cap of nearly $51 billion, but like many game outfits, the Call of Duty and World of Warcraft publisher's share price has been trending downward over the last year. Activision Blizzard has also been the subject of immense public criticism since a July lawsuit by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing alleged pervasive gender discrimination at the publisher.

Microsoft soon confirmed the deal had been reached, and put a price point of $68.7 billion on the deal, with a $95 per share agreement representing a 69% premium over Activision Blizzard's previous closing price of $65.39.

"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," the company said.

Microsoft added that the addition of Activision Blizzard would make it the world's third-largest game company by revenue, behind only Tencent and Sony.

"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 Microsoft chairman and CEO Satya Nadella. "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."

In November, Xbox head Phil Spencer sent an email to employees saying Microsoft leadership was "disturbed and deeply troubled" by what happened at Activision Blizzard, adding that he was "evaluating all aspects of our relationship with Activision Blizzard and making ongoing proactive adjustments."

Microsoft has said that Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick will continue to serve in that position, but will report to Spencer after the deal closes.

"With Activision Blizzard's nearly 400 million monthly active players in 190 countries and three billion-dollar franchises, this acquisition will make Game Pass one of the most compelling and diverse lineups of gaming content in the industry," Microsoft said in announcing the deal.

Microsoft did not say whether Activision Blizzard's franchises would be made exclusive to Xbox platforms.

"Upon close, we will offer as many Activision Blizzard games as we can within Xbox Game Pass and PC Game Pass, both new titles and games from Activision Blizzard's incredible catalog," Spencer said in a blog post. "We also announced today that Game Pass now has more than 25 million subscribers. As always, we look forward to continuing to add more value and more great games to Game Pass."

When Microsoft struck a deal to acquire Bethesda in 2020, Spencer insisted it wasn't done to keep the Skyrim maker's games away from other companies. However, within a week of the deal's final closing, Spencer was talking about it differently, saying, "this is about delivering great exclusive games for you that ship on platforms where Game Pass exists."

Spencer's post also alluded to the scandals surrounding Activision Blizzard and Kotick himself, saying, "As a company, Microsoft is committed to our journey for inclusion in every aspect of gaming, among both employees and players. We deeply value individual studio cultures. We also believe that creative success and autonomy go hand-in-hand with treating every person with dignity and respect. We hold all teams, and all leaders, to this commitment. We're looking forward to extending our culture of proactive inclusion to the great teams across Activision Blizzard."

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Brendan Sinclair avatar
Brendan Sinclair: Brendan joined in 2012. Based in Toronto, Ontario, he was previously senior news editor at GameSpot.
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