Microsoft now own Activision Blizzard following a deal worth nearly $69 billion. Here's the timeline of how the acquisition went down.
Microsoft's mammoth acquisition of gaming giant Activision Blizzard is finally complete. The huge merger was first announced back in January of 2022, and now, nearly two years later, the close to $69 billion deal is complete — bolstering Xbox's gaming offering, bringing Call of Duty under Microsoft's wing, and ultimately changing the overall gaming landscape.
Here's how things played out:
A timeline of Microsoft's Activision Blizzard acquisition
- July 21, 2021 — Following a two year investigation, Activision Blizzard is sued by the Californian Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) over alleged sexual harassment and discrimination. Activision denies it.
- July 27, 2021 — Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick responds with an open letter to the lawsuit, calling the companies initial response "tone deaf". His response was not well received by employees.
- August 3, 2021 — Investors file an additional class-action lawsuit against Activision Blizzard, alleging the gaming company failed to raise potential regulatory issues stemming from its discriminatory culture.
- August 24, 2021 — The DFEH lawsuit is expanded in scope to include temporary workers.
- November 16, 2021 — The Wall Street Journal runs a story claiming Bobby Kotick knew "for years" of sexual misconduct allegations at his company.
- November 16, 2021 — The ABK Workers Alliance call for Bobby Kotick to step down as CEO.
- 🗓️ January 18, 2022 — Microsoft announces its intent to acquire Activision Blizzard in an all-cash deal worth $68.7 billion.
- January 18, 2022 — Bloomberg report that the sale to Microsoft was in part motivated by the "negative attention and pressure on Kotick".
- January 18, 2022 — In an interview with VentureBeat, CEO of Activision Bobby Kotick outlined how increased competition from big tech firms like Facebook, Tencent, and Nvidia "started to factor into" the companies thinking on a possible acquisition.
- January 19, 2022 — The ABK Workers Alliance employee group notes that the planned Microsoft deal does not change their stated goals, and they "remain committed to fighting for workplace improvements and the rights of our employees" regardless of who is in charge.
- January 19, 2022 — During a conference call the CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella directly addressed cultural issues at Activision Blizzard, saying that it will require "significant work" to improve.
- April 1, 2022 — U.S. Senators raise their concerns about the deal and how it could disenfranchise and undermine the negotiating position of Activision Blizzard workers. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and others send a letter to the Federal Trade Commission outlining their worries.
- August 21, 2022 — The Saudi Arabian General Authority for Competition gives the deal its 'No Objection' approval.
- September 2, 2022 — Microsoft makes a promise to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation for several years.
- September 30, 2022 — Microsoft files a formal notification to the European Commission so that the deal can be reviewed under EU merger law.
- October 5, 2022 — The deal gets a straightforward approval from Brazil's regulatory body CADE.
- November 28, 2022 — Serbia gives the deal its "unconditional" approval.
- December 5, 2022 — Microsoft confirms it has made a binding ten-year offer to 'loudest objector' Sony to bring Call of Duty games on PlayStation. The offer was not accepted.
- December 7, 2022 — In an effort to help the deal go through, Microsoft commits to bringing Call of Duty to Nintendo platforms for the next decade.
- December 8, 2022 — In a blow for the deal, the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) shared news that it was seeking to block the deal, stating that it going through would result in the Xbox maker gaining "control of top video game franchises, enabling it to harm competition in high-performance gaming consoles and subscription services".
- December 8, 2022 — Senator Bernie Sanders tweets his support of the FTC's attempt to block the merger, saying "we must stop this dangerous concentration of ownership".
- December 20, 2022 — A group of gamers filed an antitrust lawsuit in an attempt to stop the deal.
- December 29, 2022 — Chile is another country to give the acquisition the green light, ruling out the possibility that the merger would "substantially reduce competition".
- March 28, 2023 — The Japan Fair Trade Commission makes its ruling, stating that "the transaction is unlikely to result in substantially restraining competition in any particular fields of trade".
- April 17, 2023 — South Africa's CCSA "approve the proposed
transaction", noting how any prior concern about Call of Duty availability on other consoles had been resolved.
- April 26, 2023 — The UK's CMA blocks the deal in order to "protect innovation and choice in cloud gaming".
- April 26, 2023 — Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick responds to the UK decision to block the deal, promising to "contest this decision".
- April 27, 2023 — Ukraine's Antimonopoly Committee approve the deal.
- May 15, 2023 — The acquisition jumps a huge hurdle in gaining approval from EU regulators, but not without some conditions. The European Commission highlighted concerns regarding competition in cloud gaming services, ultimately requiring Microsoft to license Activision Blizzard titles to competing cloud gaming services as a result.
- May 19, 2023 — China's State Administration gives the deal the nod with no conditions.
- May 24, 2023 — Microsoft files an appeal with the UK's Competition Appeal Tribunal following the CMAs decision to block the deal.
- May 30, 2023 — South Korea's financial watchdog approves the acquisition, noting that the deal would likely not harm console gaming competition due to the low market share of the games developed and distributed by the two firms within Korea.
- June 23, 2023 — The FTC vs Microsoft hearing gets underway.
- June 27, 2023 — Outgoing PlayStation boss Jim Ryan appeared in a prerecorded video deposition during the FTC trial to outline his opposition to the deal.
- July 11, 2023 — Following a lengthy trial, Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley rules in favor of Microsoft, denying the FTC's preliminary injunction request.
- July 13, 2023 — CCO of Activision Blizzard Lulu Cheng Meservey takes to Twitter to announce that Turkey has also approved the merger.
- July 16, 2023 — Sony finally agrees to sign a 10-year Call of Duty deal with Microsoft, ending what had been a fairly bitter battle throughout the acquisition process.
- July 17, 2023 — Activision Blizzard is removed from the NASDAQ-100 ESG Index, suggesting confidence that the acquisition will take place.
- July 19, 2023 — Microsoft and Activision Blizzard jointly agree to extend their merger agreement until October 18, 2023, thus buying the two companies some extra time to resolve outstanding regulatory issues, chiefly those of the CMA in the UK.
- August 8, 2023 — The New Zealand Commerce Commission gives its clearance for Microsoft to acquire 100% of Activision Blizzard. "While Activision games, in particular Call of Duty, are popular with New Zealand gamers, our enquiries did not find that they are likely to be ‘must have’ in order to compete with Microsoft in New Zealand."
- August 22, 2023 — Ubisoft announce an agreement with Microsoft. It gives the publisher's Ubisoft+ service the exclusive cloud streaming rights to Call of Duty and other Activision Blizzard titles for the next 15 years.
- September 26, 2023 — The FTC reopens its case against the merger citing public interest, despite being unable to now block it from proceeding.
- October 13, 2023 — The UKs CMA gives the deal its blessing following Microsoft's fresh cloud gaming agreement with Ubisoft. The UK CMA calls Microsoft's move a "concession" that will be a "gamechanger" for cloud competition. This essentially allows the overall deal to go ahead.
- ⭐️ October 13, 2023 — The deal closes. Microsoft now own Activision Blizzard. It is the most expensive videogame related acquisition ever. Microsoft's Phil Spencer says: "It is incredible to welcome such legendary teams to Xbox".
- October 13, 2023 — Bobby Kotick shares that he will step down as Activision Blizzard CEO at the end of 2023. He will report to Phil Spencer in the meantime.
- October 13, 2023 — Ubisoft share an explainer on what the deal means for Ubisoft+ subscribers now that it has been approved.
- October 13, 2023 — With the deal now done Microsoft's headcount grows by roughly 13,000. As such the company released a statement affirming their commitment to "labor principles and innovative approach to union partnerships".
- October 17, 2023 — Phil Spencer shares that it will be some time before Activision Blizzard games arrive on Game Pass, with the first likely now dropping in 2024.
So that's it! After 633 long days since first being announced the deal is done.