Microsoft today announced a massive $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard, quickly propelling itself into the premium market of expensive acquisitions in the process. That brings franchises like Call of Duty, Overwatch, Diablo, and World of Warcraft, almost as big as that price tag, into the Xbox family. The future of these franchises and whether they will become exclusive to the Xbox console remains uncertain, which is just one of many unanswered questions following today’s news.
Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick is reported to know about the company’s years-long history of sexual misconduct and harassment. What will he look like? Which Activision Blizzard franchises might Xbox revive? Which games will remain multi-platform and which will be Xbox exclusives? For now, we’ll all have to wait and see; and there’s a good chance we won’t get those answers until the deal closes in fiscal 2023. One thing that is known, however, is the price — Microsoft spent $68.7 billion on the acquisition, which quickly ballooned to some of the biggest in history. But how big is it compared to everyone else in video games? How does it compare to works produced in other media such as film?
Here’s how this acquisition compares to similar acquisitions:
Microsoft buys Zenimax for $7.5 billion
Microsoft announced back in September 2020 that it would acquire ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Bethesda. The deal was finalized last March, and the Xbox is now home to franchises such as Fallout, The Elder Scrolls, Doom, Wolfenstein and Dishonored. It will also be the exclusive console for new games like Starfield, and while the price tag for Bethesda’s IP is quite high, $7.5 billion pales in comparison to today’s acquisition.
Take-Two to acquire Zynga – $13 billion
Just last week, Take-Two became the company behind the most expensive acquisition in video game history. It did so by acquiring Zynga for $12.7 billion. While Zynga may not be the best-known name on consoles and PCs, it’s a giant in the mobile gaming market. Perhaps second only to King, Xbox owns it after being acquired by Blizzard today. Still, Take-Two’s acquisition of Zynga was a smart move — it positioned the company as a leader in the mobile gaming market, which also happens to be one of the largest in the world. The $13 billion price tag is historic, but only lasted a week thanks to today’s news.
Sony acquires Gaikai for $380 million
Sony announced in 2012 that it had acquired cloud streaming company Gaikai Inc, which owns the technology that now powers Sony’s PlayStation Now service for $380 million. At the time, that number seemed very high and still a huge number, but as you can see, it was a piece of cake compared to a $0 billion acquisition. Still, Sony gets a great cloud streaming service that makes it easy for gamers to play older generation games and download new ones (depending on your internet connection). It didn’t cost them billions, and it probably saw it as a win. Today, there are rumors that PlayStation Now may be merged into a new Xbox Game Pass-like service codenamed Spartacus, but for now, that’s still a rumor. Only time will tell how far Sony can go with its initial $380 million investment.
Sony buys Insomniac Games for $229 million
Sony announced in August 2019 that it had acquired Insomniac Games, the studio behind Marvel’s Spider-Man, Ratchet and Clank franchises. In February 2020, it was reported that Sony spends $229 million to bring Insomniac to the PlayStation family (Thanks to CNET) first-party studio. While that number may seem low for a studio that consistently releases great games year after year, the cost of incorporating a studio into the larger picture is rare. Many individual studio purchases do not publicly disclose the fees paid. For example, how much PlayStation paid for Housemarque or Firesprite, and what Microsoft paid for Playground Games, Ninja Theory, Undead Labs or Double Fine Productions, is unknown.
Disney buys Lucasfilm for $4 billion
These are the many video game-centric acquisitions that have happened in recent years, but $68.7 billion doesn’t seem crazy when you expand the pool to include acquisitions in the entertainment industry, though it’s still easily one of the biggest costs to pay. Disney shook the entertainment world in 2012 when it announced its acquisition of Lucasfilm, the storied film studio that backed franchises such as “Indiana Jones,” “Land Before the Times,” and “The Willow.” $4 billion (Thanks to USA TODAY). Oh, and Star Wars. At the time, $4 billion seemed huge, but when Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens hit theaters and soared to over $1 billion, that $4 billion felt much smaller. For the price Microsoft paid for Activision Blizzard, it could have bought 17 Lucasfilms, or in other words, it could have bought more than a dozen Star Wars movies.
Disney to buy 20th Century Fox for $71.3 billion
It takes a lot of time to find a higher-priced acquisition in entertainment media than Activision Blizzard’s (note that there have been bigger acquisitions in other industries, such as Heinz’s $100 billion acquisition of Kraft in 2015, and even AOL’s Time Warner spent $182 billion in 2000)…but we did: Disney to buy 20th Century Fox for $71.3 billion in 2020 (Thanks, BBC) Costs more. Arguably one of the most historic entertainment acquisitions ever, this brings everything featuring the iconic 20th Century Fox brass spotlight theme into Disney’s wheelhouse. There’s been a lot of speculation about how and why this came about, and we’re not too sure if Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige could bring the X-Men into the MCU, but one thing’s for sure: we’re in Such an expensive acquisition may not be seen for a long time.
Are there massive acquisitions that we might have missed? Which costs are too low for you and which are too high? Let us know in the comments below!