Microsoft acquires Activision Blizzard in eye-watering $70b deal

Those of us who thought Microsoft was done with big money gaming purchases after its $7.5 billion acquisition of ZeniMax Media last year were sorely mistaken, it seems. Today, Microsoft announced its intention to buy Activision Blizzard for a staggering $68.7 billion. With this acquisition, a lot of popular game franchises will come under the ownership of Microsoft, including Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, and even Candy Crush.

This isn't just a play to build out its library of exclusive games or add to the ever-growing list of Xbox Game Studios. In a press release today, Microsoft said that 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."

Still, metaverse ambitions aside, this is a huge acquisition from a gaming standpoint. Microsoft says that it will bring Activision Blizzard games to Xbox Game Pass, though the company didn't get any more specific than that. We're left wondering if we'll see games like World of Warcraft come to Game Pass and, if so, whether players will still need to pay a separate subscription to play it.

While our questions about a potential World of Warcraft debut on Xbox Game Pass will go unanswered for now, there's no doubt that this is a big win for Microsoft's subscription service. Activision is a publisher that has bought up a ton of games studios throughout the years, and now they'll all be under the ownership of Microsoft. We're talking studios like Infinity Ward, Toys for Bob, Treyarch, Raven Software, Beenox, High Moon Studios, and Radical Entertainment, so Microsoft is going to acquire a ton of existing franchises that will undoubtedly make their way to Xbox Game Pass in the future.

For now, Activision Blizzard and Microsoft will operate independently as the deal goes before regulators for approval. Embattled Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick will stay on to lead the company, but once the acquisition is complete, he may be out of the picture, as Activision Blizzard will report to Phil Spencer as CEO of Microsoft Gaming. In an image showing headshots of the Microsoft Gaming Leadership Team shared in a separate post to Xbox Wire, Bobby Kotick's picture is nowhere to be found.

Of course, before we start talking about Activision Blizzard and Microsoft as the same entity, this deal needs to not only gain the approval of Activision Blizzard shareholders but regulators, too. If there's a gaming acquisition that's going to get the attention of regulators, it's probably this one, so we'll see how things play out in the months to come. Assuming everything goes smoothly, Microsoft expects to close this deal in fiscal year 2023.