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MFST and ATVI Sitting in a Tree

… M E R G I N G.

Sorta. More like Activision Blizzard being bought by Microsoft for about $70 billion. You already knew that though, because your news feed was probably about as filled as mine was yesterday. And now I’m adding this one to the pile. At least I went with a different title, eh?

There are really just two thoughts I wanted to examine, and leave everyone else with the more mundane (IMO) details.

First, this does interesting things for Game Pass. From the Microsoft article:

Upon close, we will offer as many Activision Blizzard games as we can within Xbox Game Pass and PC Game Pass, both new titles and games from Activision Blizzard’s incredible catalog. We also announced today that Game Pass now has more than 25 million subscribers. As always, we look forward to continuing to add more value and more great games to Game Pass.

Will we really see the next Call of Duty come out as a Day 1 Game Pass release? The franchise has been a cash cow forever, and almost never sees a discount of any appreciable amount. It’s a given that Overwatch will be on there. Probably Diablo 2 Resurrected, along with all the StarCrafts.

But… what about WoW?

My guess is that WoW will remain off of the Game Pass, assuming the merger occurs. It’s cute to imagine the possibilities of a Game Pass subscription taking the place of a WoW subscription, but The Elder Scrolls Online is not currently on the PC version of the Game Pass, and maintains its separate subscription option even for consoles (according to this). Then you would have issues with what happens with WoW Tokens and game time. EA Play is currently included as a free bonus in Game Pass, but that is more of a general subscription service and not something for a specific game.

The second thought came from Tobold’s take on the news:

My take on it: They overpaid. Whatever made Blizzard great back then is gone, and they pay big money for a rather empty shell.

As pointed out by others, Blizzard is really the third wheel to the cash motorcycle that is Activision and King. Blizzard ain’t nothing, but they clearly weren’t the draw here.

It does raise an interesting point about studios and rockstar talent though. Is the current state of Blizzard, and WoW specifically, due to the immense brain drain of talent over the past few years? Greg Street in 2013, Chris Metzen in 2016, Mike Morhaime in 2019, Michael Chu in 2020, Jeff Kaplan in 2021, and Alex Afrasiabi. The last one was a bit of a joke… but do we actually know what he contributed (beyond sexual harassment)? We would hope nothing, but there are certainly plenty of examples of famous artists with fantastic output that we then pretend is meaningless after finding out how awful they are IRL. Mel Gibson, Keven Spacey, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Louis CK, and so on.

Don’t be too smug – Joss Whedon is next, by the way.

Comment bait aside, it’s an open question as to whether WoW can, literally, ever be as good as it was (to us) again. Was it only ever good because of these specific frat boys in this specific Cosby room? Shadowlands represent a new low from a narrative standpoint, and Blizzard’s “reinvent the wheel every patch” systems floundering looks especially amateurish as the flagship burns. Many games are a product of their time, groundbreaking because they broke ground first. So there’s a time, a place, and then there’s specific people too. Can it actually ever be recreated with competent, nameless devs?

I suppose the existence of WoW Classic is a testament to the bones remaining solid, for at least X amount of people. And the present state of FF14 proves that MMOs can still thrive and grow its playerbase years later. But can the latter’s success be attributed to the committee of devs that surely exists, or to specific rockstars like Yoshi-P, aka Naoki Yoshida? Would a hypothetical acquisition of FF14 be moot if it did not include him?

I don’t know. A lot of this may be Survivorship Bias – these individual devs are famous because their games were successful and they made themselves the face of it. Who is the face of Hades? Or Doom? Or GTA5? But perhaps in the final tally, having the right person in the right place at the right time does make all the difference.

And then you get bought by Microsoft for $70 billion.

Microsoft Likely Buying Minecraft for $2 Billion

That is $2,000,000,000.00 USD, for the record.

“The two companies quickly agreed on a framework and approximate price and have been working out the details since”, the Bloomberg report states. “Persson will help out with the transition, though he is unlikely to remain beyond that”.

The Kotaku article comments spend a lot of time questioning the wisdom of the move on Microsoft’s behalf, and I am inclined to agree. Hasn’t Minecraft reached the saturation point yet? Well, at $100 million in profit last year, maybe not. Still, it was originally hard for me to see the endgame here for Microsoft. In-game DLC? Pixelated horse armor? Banner ads on the title screen?

It is apparently much simpler than that: Microsoft is buying customers.

But Mr. Nadella has said that Microsoft views videogames as a way to expand the company’s footholds in PCs and mobile phones. In a letter to employees in July, Mr. Nadella called gaming the “single biggest digital life category, measured in both time and money spent, in a mobile-first world.”

[…] “Minecraft” could also help Microsoft appeal to a new generation of customers, especially on smartphones where Microsoft has struggled with both its homegrown Windows Phone devices and with apps on rival phone systems.

While there are other articles out there stating that Notch would never sell, the information we seem to have now is that, despite Notch having turned down similar offers in the past, it appears he is willing to sell this time around. Good for him. If you are wondering at what price point I would sell out to The Man, $2 billion is plenty. Hell, I’d settle for $2 million.

Especially if it meant I could just go do something else immediately. Or stop before I turned into another M. Night Shamamalamalan.