Many Activision Blizzard employees across the West Coast woke up to some major news on the morning of Jan. 18: Microsoft, one of the biggest tech companies in the world, would acquire their employer for a whopping $68.7 billion. Several workers found out on Twitter or through gossip from coworkers and said they are still uncertain of how this industry-shaking acquisition will impact them.
“Zero idea, complete surprise,” one current employee told Upcomer. “[I had] absolutely no hint or awareness this was happening.”
Other employees echoed that sentiment, adding that the acquisition came out of nowhere for them. However, they expressed cautious optimism about new corporate management bringing an influx of resources while leaving their autonomy relatively untouched. There’s no official indication of either, yet, but Bethesda director Todd Howard has said the Elder Scrolls developer gave up “very little” in terms of autonomy when Microsoft acquired them in 2020.
“I’m cautiously optimistic about the acquisition,” Overwatch producer Tracy Kennedy said on Twitter. “Friends at other MS-acquired studios have had nothing but good things to say about MS Gaming’s leadership and how smooth the transition was.”
I'm cautiously optimistic about the acquisition. Friends at other MS-acquired studios have had nothing but good things to day about MS Gaming's leadership and how smooth the transition was.
— Tracy Kennedy (@RiotLavaliere) January 18, 2022
Uncertainty for Activision Blizzard and Microsoft
Activision Blizzard is a completely different beast compared to Bethesda, however. Activision Blizzard has thousands more employees when compared to Bethesda and the company is currently in the middle of multiple lawsuits due to the discriminatory and sexist culture developed there. Regarding the latter, some Activision Blizzard employees said they are excited for new leadership, as embattled CEO Bobby Kotick is rumored to be leaving once the sale becomes final in 2023. That’s something that ABetterABK, a coalition of employees within the company, have wanted for months.
“The news of Activision’s acquisition by Microsoft is surprising, but does not change the goals of the ABK Worker’s Alliance,” the organization wrote on Twitter.
Organizers aren’t sure if the move will make it easier to unionize within the company, either. Activision Blizzard leadership had been actively trying to prevent their workers from coming together, but it’s too early to say if Microsoft’s approach will be any different. Raven QA workers, among others, are currently in their fifth week of striking to restore the employment status of recently laid off contract workers. Management has yet to respond to the worker’s requests to negotiate.
The acquisition also opens up more questions about platforms and projects across the company. Employees aren’t sure what will happen to Battle.net, Activision Blizzard’s launcher, store and general connectivity platform, or the Overwatch and Call of Duty League. Microsoft also has its own internal tools that Activision Blizzard may move toward. Microsoft helped 343 Industries launch the Halo Championship Series last year. Competitive Call of Duty and Overwatch stakeholders hope Halo Infinite’s success will somehow make its way to these other shooters.
“No one has addressed this yet but, I imagine they’ll inform us down the line,” one employee said.
The sale is not complete, meaning Microsoft does not have control of Activision Blizzard yet. The tech giant can’t guarantee anything or make meaningful changes within Activision Blizzard until farther down the line. Employees are hoping for the best once the sale is final.
“I hope that Microsoft will work with us more than ABK has,” one organizer said. “I don’t think it will change too much, but I’m unsure.”