The US tech giant is planning to make its biggest acquisition to date that of Activision Blizzard, the video game developer and publisher behind some of the most popular games worldwide.
The near $70 billion all-cash transaction at $95 a share will far surpasses Microsoft’s former largest acquisition of online professional networking platform LinkedIn at $26.2bn.
After Microsoft announced its move to buy the video game giant on Tuesday, Activision Blizzard’s stock rose by roughly 30% on the last 24 hours.
The roughly $200 billion gaming industry is one in which billion dollar acquisitions and takeovers are common – with Take Two Interactive (owner of Rockstar Games, home to the Grand Theft Auto franchise) recently purchasing mobile and online games producer Zynga for $12.7bn.
But news of the Microsoft Activision deal is leading many to ask what Activision Blizzard games they might have played or heard of, and who owns the company currently.
Here’s what you need to know about who owns Activision, Blizzard and franchises like Crash Bandicoot and Call of Duty.
When was Activision founded?
Activision has long dominated the video game market as a successful publisher and developer of games across console, mobile and PC.
It was founded in 1979 after several disgruntled employees at retro games and computer pioneer Atari Inc decided to leave the company after it was acquired by Warner Communications in 1976.
Programmers David Crane, Larry Kaplan, Alan Miller and Bob Whitehead went on to create successful video games for Atari home video consoles such as the Atari 2600 including Kaboom! and Pitfall! in the 1980s.
It remained a success until the video game market crash and pivots to new products saw profits begin to stagnate in the late 80s and early 90s.
Under Bobby Kotick’s leadership, the company embarked on a huge restructure and completed a slew of acquisitions in order to increase its intellectual property (IP) portfolio of games.
Among the companies acquired by Activision under Kotick between the 90s and early 2000s were Infinity Ward, who developed Call of Duty, Tony Hawk Pro Skater creator NeverSoft and Guitar Hero developer RedOctane.
Today, the company is based in Santa Monica, California, but has a worldwide reach and presence in the games industry.
Once Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard is completed in 2023, the tech giant will have increased its number of development studios to 30 in total.
Who owns Blizzard?
Blizzard Entertainment, best known for developing the overwhelmingly popular massively multiplayer online role playing game, World of Warcraft, merged with Activision when the company announced a deal with Vivendi Games in 2008.
Vivendi originally owned Blizzard, but Blizzard went on to form part of the Activision brand and company name during the $18.9 billion acquisition of Vivendi.
Activision Blizzard remained a joint company until 2013, when Activision bought out Vivendi’s shares for almost $6 billion in order to establish itself as its own company.
Today, the company is split into three parts for developing, publishing and distribution purposes across Activision Publishing, King and Blizzard Entertainment.
Activision Blizzard games/IPs
Activision Blizzard is known far and wide for its first person shooter franchise, Call of Duty, which had sold more than 400 million lifetime unit sales as of April 2021 according to Statista.
Last year saw Call of Duty: Warzone reach a landmark of 100 million players, while physical sales of Call of Duty: Vanguard were later reported to have slipped by up to 23% as cloud and online options rise in popularity.
Activision Blizzard has owned action-adventure platformer franchise Crash Bandicoot since Activision merged with Vivendi Games (Blizzard) in 2008, with the much-loved series first developed by Naughty Dog for Playstation topping download charts with sequels like the N. Sane Trilogy (2017) and On the Run! (2021).
Here is a full list of the games owned by Activision Blizzard:
- Call of Duty
- Candy Crush
- Crash Bandicoot
- DJ Hero
- Empire Earth
- Gabriel Knight
- Geometry Wars
- Guitar Hero
- Heroes of the Storm
- Interstate ’76
- King’s Quest
- Laura Bow Mysteries
- The Lost Vikings
- Police Quest
- Quest for Glory
- Solider of Fortune
- Space Quest
- Spyro the Dragon
- Tenchu (legacy games)
- Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater
- True Crime
- World of Warcraft
Will Activision games become Xbox exclusives under Microsoft?
While full details surrounding the acquisition of Activision by Microsoft are still to come, Tuesday’s announcement by Microsoft noted that Candy Crush, Call of Duty, and more of Activision’s landmark franchises are set to be included in the multi-billion dollar deal.
Microsoft’s announcement cited plans to launch Activision Blizzard games into its popular Game Pass subscription model – echoing moves made with its acquisition of ZeniMax Media, which will see Bethesda games such as The Elder Scrolls, Dishonoured and more launch on Game Pass for subscribers.
It added that the addition of Candy Crush to its portfolio, as a key part of Activision Blizzard’s booming mobile games business, will allow the company to corner the market enjoyed by 95% of all gamers globally.
With Microsoft now owning a comprehensive set of popular IPs, the company could well be incentivised to make some of Activision’s titles exclusive to Xbox consoles in order to stave off the increased competition faced by the company with the arrival of the Playstation 5.