The games industry continues to consolidate

Blizzard is to be added to Microsoft’s ever-growing catalogue

Video games have always been popular, but since the start of the pandemic the rise in gaming across all consoles and platforms has increased dramatically. By June 2020, we saw a 39% increase in the time we spend gaming globally. As the industry grows exponentially in this changing landscape, new figures are emerging as the big players in game development.

The Activision Blizzard corporation, home of games such as World of Warcraft and Overwatch, announced in early January that it would be joining the ever-growing Microsoft gaming family. Microsoft has dominated the gaming industry as of late, gradually working its way up to compete with the likes of gaming titans such as Sony. Blizzard is expected to sell for $95 per share; the transaction is estimated to set Microsoft back $68.7 billion.

“Mobile gaming currently makes up 95% of the gaming industry, with the ability to play games on the go becoming more and more appealing.”

The move comes after Microsoft’s 2021 acquisition of ZeniMax Media, a holding company presiding over Bethesda Game Studios, home to the cult favourites Fallout and The Elder Scrolls. However, Microsoft do not seem to be limiting themselves to console or PC gaming alone, adding many mobile games, including one of mobile gaming’s biggest hits, Candy Crush Saga. Mobile gaming currently makes up 95% of the gaming industry, with the ability to play games on the go becoming more and more appealing. CEO of Microsoft’s gaming division Phil Spencer addressed Microsoft’s ambitions in mobile gaming stating: “Together we will build a future where people can play the games they want, virtually anywhere they want.”

In a company-wide email, CEO of Activision Blizzard Bobby Kotick stated: “Today is an incredibly exciting day. As we continue our journey to connect and engage the world through epic entertainment, we will eventually do so as part of Microsoft.” In this email, Kotick references the rising engagement of social media platforms with gaming, focusing on the social environments that gaming can create for their players. Though the transition is not set to happen till mid-2023, the announcement has begun a wave of discussion amongst players of Activision Blizzard titles and the wider gaming community alike. The move will see Microsoft buy further into eSports, which is a form of competition using video games.

“Microsoft now seems well placed to push out its long-standing competitor Sony.”

Microsoft introduced the Game Pass in 2017, a video game subscription service from Microsoft which allows users to play a large rotating catalogue of games from a wide range of publishers. Game Pass has been a particularly good option for students looking to get their game fix on a budget. With offers from indie gaming houses along with massive titles from those such as Blizzard at your fingertips, it is no surprise that the Pass has enticed upwards of 25 million global subscribers. Microsoft now seems well placed to push out its long-standing competitor Sony and stake a further claim on the lucrative market, worth over $200 billion and still growing.

However, PlayStation players should be safe with Activision Blizzard and Microsoft announcing that they intend to keep games on the competitor’s system, including their various exclusives. CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, stated: “We will bring as many Activision Blizzard games as we can to our Game Pass subscription service across the PC, console, and mobile, including both new games, as well as games from Activision Blizzard’s incredible catalogue offering even better value and more choice for our gamers.” With the promise of Activision Blizzard games old and new coming to Microsoft’s service, it is adopting an industry position similar to Netflix or Disney Plus in the video streaming realm, aggregating content from a variety of the most popular sources on a single subscription-based platform.

Regardless of the benefits that this will have for Game Pass users, Microsoft will be taking on a whole array of issues with the acquisition of Activision Blizzard. In terms of player satisfaction, Overwatch 2 was announced to players in 2019 and is currently delayed until April of 2022, leaving many frustrated. The original Overwatch itself has had no new heroes added since Echo in 2020. Eyes will now be on Microsoft and Blizzard to see if any more delays are on the table and if the original game has been well and truly left in the dust.

With Microsoft taking on more games, it will be interesting to see how players react to the multitude of changes Microsoft will bring to gaming and the video game industry over the next few years.