The gaming industry reacts to Microsoft's megaton acquisition of Activision Blizzard

Activision booth at E3 2017
(Image credit: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Microsoft's remarkable acquisition of Activision-Blizzard is the biggest gaming news of 2022 so far, and a huge statement of intent from the tech giant about gaming: What was once a subsidiary arm of Microsoft now feels like one of its core strengths. Xbox is currently enjoying huge momentum, thanks mainly to Game Pass and a steady stream of acquisitions large and small that, once the Activision Blizzard takeover is complete, will leave Microsoft as the third-largest gaming company in the world (behind Tencent and Sony).

The news was kept quiet until its announcement, and games industry figures have been reacting. While it's a little odd to start with the ultimate insider reaction, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's statements have been notable for their emphasis on workplace culture, showing just how aware Microsoft is of the potential pitfalls here. The ongoing lawsuits Activision Blizzard is facing must have been an element in these conversations and, if I were a betting man, I'd put my house on Kotick trying to settle them before the takeover is complete.

Sticking with Microsoft for just a moment, GM of Xbox Aaron Greenberg claims he's hearing nothing but positivity from Activision Blizzard teams—of course, he would say that.

The other perspective comes from the Activision-Blizzard-King Workers' Alliance, which says it it remains "committed to fighting for workplace improvements and the rights of our employees regardless of who is financially in control of the company."

A big focus of the reactions has been Bobby Kotick and, generally, the Activision Blizzard executives who are in for a huge payday in the context of an ongoing series of harassment and workplace lawsuits.

Indie developer Rami Ismail is among those who think that Kotick has been too tainted by the recent scandals to stay in charge. Ismail's suggestion that Kotick be fired seems extraordinarily unlikely, but it's probably that after a transition period the longtime Activision CEO will step aside.

The press release does hint that this may be the plan: "Bobby Kotick will continue to serve as CEO of Activision Blizzard [...] Once the deal closes, the Activision Blizzard business will report to Phil Spencer, CEO, Microsoft Gaming." In addition to which, the Wall Street Journal reports that its sources have said Kotick will step aside once the deal is completed.

The wider picture around the acquisition is Game Pass and Microsoft's goal to reach players across all devices. As industry analyst Daniel Zhuge points out, this has been the goal Microsoft is pushing towards for years.

Perhaps the most eye-catching aspect of the acquisition is the amount of money involved: It's hard to even begin wrapping your head around $68.7 billion. Bloomberg's Jon Erlichman put this in context of Microsoft's other acquisitions and it is the biggest by a huge distance.

An obvious thought with this acquisition is: Wow, Sony is in trouble! Obviously PlayStation isn't going anywhere anytime soon, but Microsoft's momentum is undeniable and one element of this deal is that it's incidentally acquiring some IP that is very linked to PlayStation's history.

id co-founder John Carmack weighed-in, and revealed that id was very nearly acquired by Activision before eventually ending up with Zenimax—which Microsoft bought last year.

Former Microsoft employee and co-creator of Xbox, Seamus Blackley, pointed out that the 'metaverse' aspect of this deal is being wildly over-emphasised by some outlets.

Blackley went on to add that "I strongly believe in [Phil Spencer] as a leader and an executive. I think this is a very insightful move and could represent a huge win for Xbox. There are daunting challenges in all large acquisitions I just see the issues of developer culture as being paramount here, before all else."

There's also the various dormant IPs that Microsoft has acquired: Some high hopes here, though I wouldn't get too excited about a Pitfall remake.

Indie dev Crows Crows Crows, meanwhile, got optimistic about their own prospects.

And a Hearthstone designer wonders about the crossover potential.

And there are some other good jokes too. Clippy in Overwatch!

And finally: The worst of the day. It is, of course, the NFT/crypto take.

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."