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Microsoft Buys Activision Blizzard, Bobby Kotick Staying As CEO

January 18, 2022

By: Joseph Allen

 
 

In a shock move, Microsoft has purchased controversial gaming giant Activision Blizzard. The company has confirmed that Activision Blizzard will report to Phil Spencer as head of Xbox gaming, with Bobby Kotick remaining as CEO. 

What do we know about the Microsoft Activision Blizzard purchase?

After rumors swirled surrounding the purchase, Microsoft confirmed it via its official website. In the announcement post, Microsoft confirms the value of the purchase as $68.7 billion. Despite shareholders calling for his resignation, it seems Kotick will remain as the company's CEO, although he and his team will report to Phil Spencer as the head of Xbox Gaming. The transaction will be completed in fiscal year 2023, which starts this July for Microsoft.

 

A shot from Call of Duty: Vanguard, an Activision Blizzard (and now Microsoft) franchise
Microsoft will now own all Activision Blizzard franchises, including Call of Duty.

Microsoft has also confirmed that when the deal closes, "as many Activision Blizzard games as we can" will be added to Xbox Game Pass. This includes new titles and games from Activision Blizzard's back catalogue, so expect to see franchises like WarcraftCall of Duty, and more pop up on Game Pass. The company also confirms that Xbox Game Pass has reached 25 million subscribers, which is the first official count we've had from Microsoft in a while (although various other gaming industry figures have occasionally alluded to Game Pass's subscriber count).

What does Microsoft inherit with the Activision Blizzard purchase?

The elephant in the room here is, of course, Activision Blizzard's ongoing legal battles around accusations of toxic workplace culture and sexual harassment. These allegations have been major news for some months now, and they're not showing any signs of abating, with more employees coming forward with stories of sexual harassment as recently as December last year. In fact, Xbox head Phil Spencer criticized Activision Blizzard recently in an internal staff email, describing himself as "disturbed and deeply troubled" by what he described as "horrific events and actions" at Activision Blizzard. In particular, the team developing MMO World of Warcraft has come under fire, although employees say the toxic workplace culture is widespread.

 
 
World of Warcraft, one of the games included in the toxic workplace accusations against Activision Blizzard
World of Warcraft was one of the games cited as being particularly problematic in terms of Activision Blizzard's workplace environment.

It's not yet clear whether Microsoft intends to make any systemic changes to Activision Blizzard's workplace environment. Even though Kotick will be staying as CEO, the wording in the announcement is somewhat vague; Microsoft says the team will report to Phil Spencer "once the deal closes". However, usually, if a CEO is departing when a deal closes, it's stated much more clearly, so it's unlikely Kotick will be ousted once Microsoft's purchase is finalized. It is worth saying that Microsoft has also ordered a review of its own sexual harassment and gender discrimination policies, so it is at least nominally intending to address issues around internal workplace culture. Of course, whether this will extend to Activision Blizzard in a meaningful sense remains to be seen. We'll bring you more on this as we get it.

Activision Blizzard has been heavily criticized over allegations of toxic workplace culture and sexual harassment. These criticisms have come from several U.S. state treasurers, the heads of both PlayStation and Xbox, and a group of activist shareholders, among many others. The company is also embroiled in lawsuits, unionization disputes with staff, and conflicts with government agencies.

What do you think of Microsoft purchasing Activision Blizzard? Let us know in the comments below!