Microsoft announces a massive deal to purchase Activision Blizzard, Nobody Saves the World released by Drinkbox Studios, and Ubisoft Toronto is remaking 2002’s Splinter Cell.
Microsoft is buying Activision Blizzard for nearly $70 billion
Microsoft shocked the gaming industry on Tuesday with an early-morning announcement that it had come to an agreement to purchase game developer and publisher Activision Blizzard.
The cash offer of $68.7 billion USD amounts to $95 per share. The deal will have to clear a number of hurdles including a look by governmental anti-trust regulators, but assuming it clears those will close sometime mid next year. In the meantime, Activision Blizzard will continue to operate independently.
In an email to Microsoft staff, Satya Nadella wrote that, “Gaming has been key to Microsoft since our earliest days as a company. Today, it’s the largest and fastest-growing form of entertainment, and as the digital and physical worlds come together, it will play a critical role in the development of metaverse platforms.”
While Nadella invoked the metaverse I believe that was more to capitalize on the buzzword than due to any metaverse strategy.
This acquisition makes sense for Microsoft because it brings ownership of the lucrative Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Overwatch, and Diablo franchises, not to mention those that Activision mothballed, like Guitar Hero and Skylanders.
These titles boost the Xbox Game Pass library, which Microsoft revealed has reached 25 million subscribers.
Oh, and Activision Blizzard also owns the mobile game publisher, King, which created Candy Crush.
Also part of the announcement on Tuesday was news that Xbox head Phil Spencer has been promoted to chief executive officer of Microsoft Gaming, a reorganization of Microsoft’s gaming business that pulls all its pieces together under one umbrella.
This is also significant, because Spencer has been a booster of the gaming community, and since he’s been in control of the business for Microsoft, he’s built on that belief. Giving him this portfolio is a way of acknowledging his impact on the company.
In a blog post, Spencer recognized the work that would need to be done to make up for the serious missteps by Activision Blizzard in confronting and reconciling serious allegations of sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace.
“We also believe that creative success and autonomy go hand-in-hand with treating every person with dignity and respect. We hold all teams, and all leaders, to this commitment,” wrote Spencer. “We’re looking forward to extending our culture of proactive inclusion to the great teams across Activision Blizzard.”
And the Xbox gaming leadership team, headed by Spencer, includes seven females on the twelve-person board.
People are already wondering if games like Call of Duty and Overwatch will, going forward, be exclusive to Microsoft platforms, Windows and Xbox. I think this is likely, but both Spencer and Nadella made specific reference to how this acquisition would support cloud gaming. Spencer wrote that the additions to the library will allow, “more people in more places around the world to participate in the Xbox community using phones, tablets, laptops and other devices you already own. Activision Blizzard games are enjoyed on a variety of platforms and we plan to continue to support those communities moving forward.”
With cloud servers, Spencer can keep that promise and still keep those games exclusive.
Nobody Saves the World is new from Toronto’s Drinkbox Studios
Toronto indie developer Drinkbox Studios launched a new game this week.
Nobody Saves the World is a top-down action role-playing game in which you start off as a literal nobody. That blank slate provides you with the opportunity to transform into different “Forms” like a rat, or a ghost, or a dragon.
Each form has unique abilities that you can use to complete quests and explore dungeons, and you can customize your own character by mixing up the abilities of the Forms you’ve discovered.
Nobody Saves the World is available on Windows and Xbox Series X/S and is available with a subscription to Xbox Game Pass.
Ubisoft Toronto is making a new Splinter Cell game
Late last year, Ubisoft Toronto let it slip that the studio is leading development on a remake of the original Splinter Cell game.
Released in 2002 with Canadian actor Michael Ironside playing the enigmatic covert agent Sam Fisher, Splinter Cell was a technical marvel, taking advantage of the Xbox console hardware to render light and shadow in ways that had never been done before in home video games.
The game was developed at Ubisoft Montreal and took seriously its challenge to provide better stealth gameplay than the Metal Gear games from Hideo Kojima and Konami.
In a post about the remake, creative director Chris Auty says, “With this remake, we are building a solid base for the future of Splinter Cell.”