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E58: Microsoft announce their plans to acquire Activision Blizzard.
Good morning gamers. Is Microsoft turning into Thanos?
Last week was headlined by Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard for $68.7 Billion. The acquisition led to several questions and causes for concern by some gamers for the future of their favourite games. Let’s take a look at everything that happened in gaming last week.
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Microsoft Acquires Activision Blizzard
Last week was a major week in the gaming industry because Microsoft blindsided everyone and announced their plans to acquire Activision Blizzard in an all-cash transaction worth $68.7 billion (or $95 per share). The deal will still have to pass through the various antitrust procedures in the United States, the European Union and China but is expected to close within Microsoft's Fiscal Year 2023 (between July 2022 and June 2023). Until the acquisition is officially approved, Microsoft Gaming and Activision Blizzard will continue to operate independently but will eventually operate under Phil Spencer, the CEO of Microsoft Gaming.
What IPs will Microsoft Gaming receive? Microsoft Gaming will be acquiring the rights to some of Activision Blizzard's biggest franchises such as Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Diablo, Overwatch, StarCraft, Candy Crush and much more. Also included in the acquisition is King, one of the biggest social game developers in the world. It’s no secret that Xbox has been trying to make a strong push towards making games more accessible, and part of that strategy is to increase production in mobile games and establish a successful cloud gaming service. Bringing in King will be a seamless fit to help Xbox bolster those efforts and branch more deeply into the mobile gaming space with an emphasis on strong global expansion.
Our favourite Xbox gamer Phil Spencer (aka, the CEO of Microsoft Gaming) has been quite busy with press features after the news went public but here’s some of the more important things he's said,
Phil is confident in the plan that Activision Blizzard has put into place to address the issues uncovered over the last year.
Upon closing, he plans to offer as many Activision Blizzard games on Xbox Game Pass as they can.
He spoke with the leadership team at Sony and confirmed that they will honour all existing agreements as well as their desire to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation. He also separately emphasized that it is not their intent to pull communities away from PlayStation.
He wants to work closely with all the new studios to make sure they're working on the games they truly want to make. He’s also looking forward to revisiting some classic IP’s from the Activision Blizzard vault (Spyro, Guitar Hero, Hexen etc.)
Exclusivity was the main talking point last week for players on consoles other than PC and Xbox. According to Bloomberg, Microsoft plans to keep some of Activision's games as Xbox exclusives going forward. Despite the panic, Phil Spencer said that they will honor all existing agreements between Sony and Activision Blizzard. Spencer also said that he wants to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation but to what extent remains uncertain. There’s rumours circulating that Warzone will remain on PlayStation but future Call of Duty titles may become exclusive to the Xbox and PC.
According to Matthew Forde, the top 5 biggest video game acquisitions of all-time are:
Activision Blizzard - $68.7 Billion
Zynga Inc. - $12.7 Billion
Supercell - $10.2 Billion
Bethesda Softworks - $7.5 Billion
King - $5.9 Billion
Xbox Game Studios includes 343 Industries, Inxile Entertainment, Double Fine, World’s Edge, Mojang Studios, Rare, Undead Labs, Obsidian Entertainment, Compulsion Games, The Initiative, Ninja Theory, Turn 10 Studios, The Coalition, Playground Games and Xbox Game Studios Publishing.
Bethesda includes Bethesda Game Studios, id Software, Tango Gameworks, Machine Games, Arkane, Zenimax Online, Alpha Dog and Roundhouse Studios.
Activision Blizzard includes Treyarch Studios, Raven Software, High Moon Studios, Infinity Ward, Beenox, Sledgehammer Games, Blizzard Entertainment and King.
Bobby Kotick will continue to serve as CEO of Activision Blizzard during the transition but he will leave once the acquisition is complete. Kotick says he doesn’t expect many layoffs because Microsoft wants to absorb the full extent of their talent, creativity and dedication. According to his contract, Kotick is looking at a massive potential payday as he will receive $292,970,341 if he is terminated “for good reason following a change of control”. In an interview with VentureBeat, Kotick said that prior to the Microsoft deal, they thought about consolidating with Electronic Arts (EA), however, they wouldn’t have been able to give Activision Blizzard what they needed.
Major League Gaming under Microsoft?
We’ve spoken about Microsoft's pending acquisition of Activision Blizzard quite extensively already but one important callout to make is that Major League Gaming (MLG) is also part of the assets being bought. MLG was one of the major driving forces that helped establish the early frameworks of esports across multiple games like Call of Duty, Halo and Gears of War. It’s unclear how Microsoft plans to leverage the MLG brand (if at all) but they will soon find themselves pretty deep into the esports ecosystem juggling the Halo Championship Series, the Call of Duty League, the Overwatch League and StarCraft esports.
Trying To Make Things Right in Dota
As part of a direct response to the cancellation of the Dota 2 Winter Tour Major, Valve has announced the Dota Pro Circuit 2021/22 Winter Tour Regional Finals. Instead of waiting to reschedule the event on LAN, Valve will now host 6 iterations of the Winter Tour Regional Finals split over two weekends in February. The top two teams from each participating region will be awarded DPC points, but the top 4 will split the $100k prize. In addition, to help offset any discrepancy caused by the make-up point system, Valve has changed the TI11 Qualifier event so that the second and third place teams from each region get a chance to compete in a new 12-team wildcard event. The top 2 placing teams will qualify for The International 11 which will increase the tournaments total number of qualifying teams from 18 to 20 (12 qualifying teams through DPC points, 6 through the Qualifiers and 2 through this new wildcard event).
The Year of Mobile Esports
2022 is primed for another great year in mobile gaming, especially amongst the mobile esports scene. Here are a few highlights to kickstart the year.
Brawlhalla’s 2022 season will feature the world's largest fighting game prize pool coming in at $1.32 million (across all regions).
The Free Fire World Series (FFWS) 2022 is back and will be taking place in Singapore starting May 14th. The prize pool has not yet been allocated but it is expected to exceed last year's $2m total sum.
Riot Games is expanding their League of Legends: Wild Rift mobile esports scene by hosting an EMEA Championship. The event is open to teams across Europe, Russia, CIS, Turkey and MENA.
PUBG Mobile Esports 2022 is adding new regions and one-year cycles rather than seasonal relegations. These changes to their annual format will help increase the competitiveness of the league and provide more stability for teams and investors.
Game Review - Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Extraction
Rainbow Six Extraction is a cooperative multiplayer game that allows you to team up with two other players. The multiplayer will allow players to play a variety of different modes and use cross-play. All three players will choose from the 18 Rainbow Six Siege operators, each with different guns and gadgets to take into a mission. However, if your operator dies in-game, you will lose access to it, which can be upsetting considering you lose your health extremely fast in-game. The missions take place on a variety of different maps that offer players unique environments. That said, the objectives do get very repetitive and the higher the difficulty the stealthier you must play, which can be difficult with two teammates. R6 Extraction is different from games like Left 4 Dead as the point is not to shoot hordes of zombies but instead there’s clear objectives set for the players. Luckily, the game is available on Xbox Game Pass, so if you’re a subscriber, it’s worth a try with a couple friends. If you’re not an Xbox Game Pass subscriber, you probably already own similar games and we can’t justify calling this a “must buy”. We give Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Extraction a score of C.
According to industry insider Tom Henderson, Dragon Age 4 will not be released in 2022. The role-playing game is in development at BioWare and it is the fourth instalment in the Dragon Age franchise.
According to industry insider Tom Henderson, the Need for Speed game by Criterion Games will be released in September or October of this year. Henderson says development was delayed so the team could work on Battlefield 2042.
Goichi Suda, the creator of No More Heroes recently did an interview with Japanese publication Automaton where he expressed interest in making a game with Marvel. Suda said the first thing he wants to do with Marvel is “create original IP”.
LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga will be released on April 5th. The Skywalker Saga will allow you to play through the 9 main movies in LEGO mode and it will be available on consoles, PC and the Nintendo Switch.
WWE 2K22 will be released on March 11th, 2022 and it will feature Rey Mysterio on the cover of both the regular and deluxe editions. This is the first release in the WWE series since 2020, when the video game was poorly received by fans.
According to industry insider Tom Henderson, EA is evaluating the future of Battlefield 2042 after the disastrous launch. Henderson says parts of the game could potentially become free to play.
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