A reader is unimpressed by the information that Microsoft is to finish its acquisition of Activision Blizzard and worries at its future plans.
So, it’s official now: Microsoft has bought Activision Blizzard for $69 billion. I was always against the buyout but only on the principle that it was an example of lazy, capitalist greed, where one giant company buys another for no reason other than to dominate an industry they have failed to do well in by normal means. There’s nothing unusual at that, it happens all the time in all industries, and since I can’t remember the last time I played an Activision or Blizzard game I didn’t pay any special attention to it.
But after all the leaks from the court case I began to find myself not only getting sick of hearing about it but finding Microsoft’s attitude to the whole situation increasingly distasteful. The idea that a $2.4 trillion (trillion!) company, that is looking to spend $69 billion to outspend its competition (as specifically confirmed by one of the texts used as evidence), should try to paint itself as an underdog is flat out offensive.
It’s an insult to everyone’s intelligence, as was the absurdity of the 150 million new Call Of Duty players promise, which turned out to be the number of Switch owners in the world + GeoForce Now. The pretence that only Microsoft could bring Call Of Duty to Switch was idiotic given that a) Call Of Duty has appeared on Nintendo consoles multiple times in the past and b) the reason it’s not on Switch already is because nobody ever used to buy it on Nintendo formats.
Then we got the revelations that Xbox boss Phil Spencer had been lying about exclusivity plans for The Elder Scrolls 6 and other Bethesda games for years. There was no question over whether it would or would not be an Xbox exclusive, he decided it would be long ago, and even his own underlings were shocked by the decision.
I’ve never had any strong feelings about Spencer before, although I always found the way he positioned himself as a fellow gamer to be obviously disingenuous. He’s a multimillionaire business exec first and foremost, not a gamer. Jim Ryan and the new Nintendo boss, who never seems to appear in public, are too and they don’t try to muddy the water by pretending they stay up all night playing Fortnite.
However, Spencer likes to portray himself as just another gamer, someone you could meet at random on Xbox Live one night. And, for me at least, that makes it even worse when he has to do all the back-stabbing exec stuff that comes with the job.
The absolute worst was hearing him talk about his life-long dream of buying Nintendo, the way some of us might dream of owning a classic car. His complete indifference to what the company itself wants and instance that he knows what’s best for them – despite Nintendo being lightyears ahead of Xbox in terms of sales and critical acclaim – was a breathtaking display of arrogance.
And then you saw it repeated again in that Financial Times article this week, showing that it was very much the way businesspeople think; treating other businesses and the people that work at them like trophies to be acquired and quickly forgotten about once then next target is in sight.
And then recently he was talking about buying more Japanese companies, not with any sense of humility but the arrogant elitism of the rich, who know there is nothing anybody can do to stop them. There was no sense that these Japanese companies might be creative entities, capable of doing things that Microsoft is not, but instead they’re discussed like slabs of meat – something to be owned and keep out of the hands of their enemies at Sony and elsewhere.
Spencer and his cronies act like vultures, slowly circling overhead, ready to pick apart the carcass of a struggling company. That’s essentially what they did with Activision Blizzard, who they were only able to buy because their share price dropped during their toxic workplace controversy. One which Spencer publicly decried but in private immediately used as an opportunity to start negotiations for an acquisition.
There has never been any suggestion that Activision Blizzard needs Microsoft or that they can provide them with some resource or expertise which they do not already have. There is no purpose to the acquisition but for Microsoft to increase the percentage of the games industry it owns and to control a number of best-selling franchises.
I do not look forward to the coming months, as Spencer grins and gurns his way through internet videos, pretending this is good for all gamers and convinced that he has achieved something by convincing his bosses to allow him to spend such a disgusting amount of money.
I was not angry about the acquisition until this moment, but now I find the thought of Xbox and its execs increasingly repugnant. All this money spent and they still don’t have control of any company or franchise I especially care about, but if they continue on this course they will eventually and I dread that day…
By reader Granville
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