Who Else Was in the Running to Buy Activision Blizzard?

Dina Bass and Liana Baker, reporting for Bloomberg:*

Yet even as Activision fought to salvage its reputation with players and investors — the stock dropped about 15% in the month after the Wall Street Journal article — and weighed the potential takeover, Kotick and the board weren’t sold on Microsoft as the acquirer, two people familiar with the matter said. Activision made calls to try to find other interested parties, said the people, who asked not to be identified talking about private conversations. Those included Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc. and at least one other big company. But no other serious interest materialized. In an interview, Spencer declined to discuss how the deal went down. A Meta spokesperson declined to comment, and a representative for Activision didn’t return requests for comment.

I’ve been pondering this since yesterday. Who else even could have been in the running to buy Activision Blizzard? Microsoft is paying just under $69 billion in cash. What other companies have $70 billion in cash and even a vague interest in owning Activision? Apple and Google have the cash, but I can’t see how either of them would have any interest in Activision. Sony? A cursory check suggests they don’t have that much cash, and even if they could swing a $70B deal I don’t think they’d be interested in owning Activision Blizzard anyway.

That leaves Facebook as a company they could plausibly suggest having shopped themselves to. But I just don’t see Facebook having an interest either. Activision Blizzard makes games for PCs, game consoles, and mobile phones. Facebook doesn’t own any of those platforms. Facebook is, obviously, pushing to build a “metaverse” platform and has a VR platform that’s a big part of that, but Activision Blizzard doesn’t really have any major VR games. There’s talk of Microsoft’s acquisition being “metaverse” related but in this context metaverse is just a word investors think they want to hear. Neither Call of Duty nor Candy Crush seems much aligned with Facebook’s “metaverse” vision.

I really think it was Microsoft or bust. Activision knew that but doesn’t want to admit it, and Microsoft knew it and put the screws to Activision to make it happen on their terms. This deal was some Old Testament ass-kicking Microsoft. No wonder Phil Spencer got his title bumped to “Xbox CEO”.

* Given the source, take it with a “Big Hack” sized grain of salt, of course.

Wednesday, 19 January 2022