From Facebook to Google to Netflix, the technology giants of the West Coast of the United States have invested in video games, a lucrative industry but also often a pioneer in terms of innovation and trends. Microsoft has just set the bar even higher by announcing the acquisition of the American publisher Activision Blizzard for 68.7 billion dollars.
Here are four things to know about the computer giant’s potential new video game arm.
– The third empire –
If successful, this acquisition will be the largest ever in the sector, and will make Microsoft Gaming the third largest player in video games in terms of turnover, behind Tencent and Sony.
Tencent reigns both in Asia – the industry’s largest market – and in the rest of the world, thanks to its investments. The Chinese giant notably owns Riot Games, the publisher of the planetary success League of Legends, and has shares in the French studio Ubisoft (“Assassin’s Creed”, “Just Dance”…) and Activision.
The Japanese Sony has seen the share of its consoles and games grow in its income. Sales of the latest generation of PlayStation have surpassed those of Microsoft’s Xbox.
Microsoft, for its part, has expanded beyond consoles, in particular with the acquisition of the Swedish studio Mojang, creator of “Minecraft” in 2014 and ZeniMax Media in 2020, behind franchises like “Elder Scrolls” or “Fallout “.
– The candy war –
To continue its expansion, the Seattle group indeed needs content, the sinews of war to capture and retain players – global revenues derived from video game content should exceed 200 billion dollars in 2022, according to an S&P research firm.
However, Activision Blizzard is above all phenomenal games.
According to Active Player, last year, “Call of Duty”, a war game, had more than 6 million players daily, while more than 13 million people explode candy lines daily on “Candy Crush”.
The Blizzard takeover brought him flagship games like “World of Warcraft”, “Diablo”, and “Overwatch”. The success for the latter was such that it gave rise to the creation of a dedicated championship, the Overwatch League, one of the most outstanding examples of the development of esports.
Microsoft has said it wants to add “as many Activision Blizzard titles as possible” to Xbox Game Pass, its platform which has just exceeded 25 million subscribers. It offers both the possibility of downloading games on a physical medium and also of playing them remotely, via the cloud.
– Activision’s pans –
Phil Spencer, the boss of Microsoft Gaming, also mentioned the need to “promote inclusion” and “treat each person with dignity and respect”, an allusion to the accusations of harassment and discrimination which have tarnished the reputation of Activision Blizzard.
The American publisher is facing several legal actions launched by the authorities, a shareholder and employees. They have organized several demonstrations to denounce a harmful work environment.
CEO Bobby Kotick apologized to the group’s employees, thanked the boss of Blizzard and announced measures for more diversity. He also pledged to create a compensation fund for victims of harassment, endowed with 18 million dollars, in agreement with a federal agency.
– Building the metaverse –
Today’s announcement “shows how video games are seen as an essential part of our future social and digital lives,” said analyst Sophie Lund-Yates of Hargreaves Lansdown.
Often precursors, games are ahead in the construction of the “metaverse”, these parallel universes where human, augmented and virtual realities must merge, according to the tech giants.
Roblox, Minecraft and Fortnite, in particular, have created universes where playing is only one dimension among others.
“A whole generation is growing up with video games as a vector of social connection with the rest of the world”, Phil Spencer recently commented in an interview with the New York Times, referring to the practices of adolescents who find themselves online after school.
For Microsoft, investing in games therefore allows it to position itself on the future of the Internet in general.
The video game industry “is the most important form of entertainment and it is the one that is growing the fastest,” said Microsoft boss Satya Nadella. “She will play a vital role in the development of the platforms of the metaverse”.