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Posts with tag Vivendi

Activision CEO Bobby Kotick was nearly fired by Vivendi

Anyone who's paid attention to the roller-coaster that is Activision's relationship with its former owner Vivendi, here's a new wrinkle for you. Activision CEO and perennial villain in a million fans' hearts Bobby Kotick was nearly let go by Vivendi in 2013 over his refusing to sign off on any deal that excluded his own private investment group.

According to the lawsuit filed in Delaware, this allowed Kotick, Brian Kelly (Activision's Chairman) and their investment partners (including Tencent Holdings Ltd.) to gain a 25% stake in the company at the same rate that Activision itself paid for the remainder. This is claimed to have allowed them to get away with not paying a premium for control over the company. The lawsuit alleges that this is an improper benefit to Kotick, Kelly and their group.

What's really fascinating is that Kotick's stand on this issue, going so far as to threaten to resign in 2013, seems to have been seriously considered by parent company Vivendi. Former Vivendi CEO Jean-Francois Dubos and then-CFO Phillipe Capron were among those speculating on firing Kotick, with Capron going so far as to volunteer to do it the very next day after the email exchange in May of 2013. Considering he was one of the highest paid CEO's of any game company, I'm surprised they chose to back down -- perhaps his contract made firing him punishingly expensive. In the end, Vivendi blinked first and Kotick and his group got to make exactly the deal that they're getting sued over now.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

Activision Vivendi injunction lifted by Delaware Supreme Court

ActiBlizz
A few weeks ago we reported on the holdup of the Activision-Blizzard buyback from Vivendi, due to court action on behalf a few stockholders. In September, an Activision stockholder sued Activision in the Delaware Cancery Court to prevent the deal from going forward. The lawsuit argued that the deal as it stood would give Activision CEO Bobby Kotick and Co-Chairman Brian Kelley too much control over the company, to the detriment of other stockholders. As of today, the Delaware Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Activision-Blizzard's appeal of the lawsuit. As a result, Activision-Blizzard looks to have the buyback completed by October 15th, 2013.

The buyback will move forward as originally intended, with Activision-Blizzard as a company acquiring around 429 million shares from Vivendi, and the private investment group ASAC II LP simultaneously acquiring about 172 million shares. The total buyback is worth over US$8 billion.

Filed under: Blizzard, News items

Activision-Blizzard split from Vivendi halted

ActiBlizz
As reported in July, Activision-Blizzard made the move to separate itself from majority shareholder Vivendi Universal by buying itself back to the tune of over 8 billion dollars in total. About a week after the announcement, shareholder Todd Miller filed a complaint against Activision-Blizzard for doing so. Earlier this month, shareholder Douglas Hayes instigated a lawsuit against Activision-Blizzard to stop the sale, alleging that the company's CEO, chairman, and a handful of investors will benefit disproportionately from the sale. As a result, the deal is now halted for the time being.

The lawsuit hinges around the fact that the Activision-Blizzard buyback from Vivendi is actually a two-part share acquisition. The first part involves Activision-Blizzard, as a company, purchasing around 429 million shares from Vivendi. The second part -- which was the subject of Todd Miller's complaint and is at the center of the lawsuit -- involves the private investment vehicle ASAC II LP, headed by Activision-Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick and Co-Chairmain Brian Kelly, concurrently purchasing around 172 million shares from Vivendi. Hayes v. Activision-Blizzard alleges that the approval of the second sale represents a "breach of of [Activision-Blizzard and Vivendi's] fiduciary duties" and violates "certain provisions of the Company's certificate of incorporation" because it failed to submit the sale's approval to a non-Vivendi stockholder vote.

For its part, Activision-Blizzard seems to view the halt as merely a setback, and intends to continue forward with the buyback. As per the following statement Activision-Blizzard "remains committed to the transaction and is exploring the steps it will take to complete the transaction as expeditiously as possible."

Filed under: Blizzard, News items

Rumor: Vivendi plans to sell Activision Blizzard

Rumor Vivendi plans to sell Activision Blizzard
Bloomberg reports that Vivendi is looking to sell its 61 percent holding in Activision Blizzard, according to "a person with knowledge of the situation." If they are unable to find a purchaser for the entire $8.1 billion stake, they will attempt to sell part of it on the open market.

Again, this is just a rumor, but the CEO of the French Company just quit this week during a board meeting, reportedly due to a disagreement about selling off the huge telecommunication and media company's assets. The Wall Street Journal reports that "people familiar with the matter" claim that the board is considering splitting up Vivendi outright.

Until the rumor is confirmed and the success of the sale or spinoff is resolved, we will not know the fate of Blizzard or World of Warcraft. Those who say the sale of Blizzard to the merger of Blizzard and Activision brought down the quality of the game may laud the situation, while others will add this to the many reasons they claim that WoW is doomed. But speculation is just that, and we'll keep an eye out for actual facts as they happen.

Filed under: Blizzard, News items, Rumors

Bobby Kotick didn't think Blizzard was worth $7 million in '96

Have you ever looked at something new on the auction house and thought "Who would pay a thousand gold for that," only to find that months later the item has skyrocketed in price and you missed a golden opportunity to pick it up on the cheap? Activision kingpin Bobby Kotick might make the same analogy. If he played video games, I mean.

The Escapist clued us in to this little story: back in 1995, Kotick was eating lunch with some folks from Davidson & Associates, and they told him that they had just bought up-and-coming software developer Blizzard Entertainment for the tidy sum of seven million dollars -- a number that a baffled Kotick believed to be ridiculous. At the time, Blizzard's claim to fame was Warcraft: Orcs vs. Humans, and ... that's pretty much it, save for a few one-off games like Blackthorne and The Lost Vikings. Kotick called them nothing more than a "contract developer" and remarked that they weren't worth seven million bucks.

Of course, later that year, Blizzard released Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness, which catapulted them into gaming history forever. Thirteen years later, in 2008, Kotick (and Activision) paid seven billion dollars to acquire Blizzard. For those not into mathematics, that's one thousand times more than what Davidson & Associates paid.

Well, he was right about one thing. They definitely weren't worth seven million bucks. He just didn't know how right he was at the time.

Filed under: News items, Interviews

Activision-Blizzard is not Blizzard

I worked at Blizzard for close to three years. During my time there I saw a lot of big things happen: the closing of the Console Division and shelfing of Starcraft Ghost, the launch of the first (and second!) World of Warcraft expansion ... and one that some people say is the biggest event in Blizzard's history, Vivendi Games' merger with Activision.

The merger was, of course, a controversial move; and, like any corporate maneuver, it's generated a lot of misunderstandings, misreporting, misinformation ... in general, it's been a flurry of mis-es. It's upsetting and frustrating to see so many people not understand what the merger means and, in turn, form stubborn opinions.

If you want to help curb ignorance and misunderstanding regarding what's going on with the merger, you're in luck. My former employment at Blizzard means I have a lot of information to share to set the record straight. Even if you're going to continue believing that Blizzard is somehow dipping in quality or in a bad way because of the merger, at least read what I have to say. It'll be worth it.

Read more →

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

Activision-Blizzard is not Blizzard, part 2

This portion addresses questions about the merger's affect on Blizzard's day-to-day.

So if most publishers control what their developers produce, does Activision control what Blizzard does?

No, since Activision is not Blizzard's publisher.

What about in areas like support?

When I was in support at Blizzard, the only negative change I noticed in my day-to-day work post-merger was that we suddenly had an influx of terrible A-B-themed benefits program posters hung up around the office. Things may have changed since I left, but my contacts have expressed mostly positive opinions about how things are running over there.

Won't the merger result in a dip in quality of Blizzard products? Has it already?

No and no. The merger gives Blizzard the opportunity to hire more employees to produce more content while maintaining the standard of quality that we expect from Blizzard. It also allows them to keep more employees due to the new financial backing provided by the merger, which affects things like benefits and payroll.

Blizzard has stated that you can't get quality content made just by throwing money at it, but money obviously helps sometimes.

Did Activision force Blizzard to release Wrath of the Lich King during the holiday season to maximize sales?

Let me answer this with an anecdote.

Blizzard's office walls are decorated with a lot of stuff -- concept art, murals, lifesize statues of characters, and posters with Blizzard's philosophies on art and design, etc. One of these posters talks about mistakes developers make, like pushing for a holiday release when the game's not done or polished enough.

It's my belief, which is backed up by Blizzard bigwigs, that if they didn't feel the expansion was worthy for release then they wouldn't have released it when it was released.

What's up with this money-making scheme of releasing Starcraft II as three games? This is because of their post-merger greed, right?

I've been hearing this a lot lately. Even our own Mike Schramm commented that the Blizzard that let people play Warcraft 2 on Battle.net for free isn't the same Blizzard that's releasing three Starcraft II games.

This really, really confuses me. Why would anyone familiar with Blizzard's work be put off by them releasing expansions? Because that's exactly what the last two Starcraft II titles will be -- expansions. One will add the Zerg campaign and one will add the Protoss campaign, as well as likely multiplayer additions and enhancements to the experience. The single-player campaign for each game will be incredibly robust as well, with tons of in-game engine cinematics and branching events.

Devs explained to me that they had three choices once they realized the depth of the Terran campaign:

- Shorten and pare down each campaign, resulting in campaigns about as long as Warcraft III, and release it as one game.
- Make the campaigns as robust as possible and release the Protoss and Zerg campaigns in expansions.
- Put everything in on game exactly how they want it and have Starcraft II come out in 2014.

They said the the choice was obvious, and I agree. It's about delivering the player the best experience.

Won't this merger result in a lot of stupid cross-promotions?

Probably. Activision isn't known for its advertising or marketing subtlety. We dealt with it a little at work -- Activision sent us a ton of copies of Guitar Hero Aerosmith that none of us really cared about (but hey, extra Rock Band guitar, right?), as well as posters in the office with Activision desperately trying to equate our flagship properties with their licensed crap. Yes, Activision, clearly Zeratul is on the same level as the main character from Kung Fu Panda.

The best I can hope for is that we'll never see World of Warcraft advertised on KFC combo meal boxes. Blizzard seems to consider the insulation of the WoW universe important, which is why we'll likely never see in-game advertising or "Lars Umlaut <Guitar Hero>" as an NPC.

What's your personal opinion on the merger?

From a corporate perspective, it makes sense and gives Blizzard access to more funding and assets. You can see that they've begun hiring a ton of designers and other WoW-relation positions, which can only increase the amount of content we get to experience and enjoy.

From a gamer's perspective, Activision is an IP-exploiting shovelware mill run by a doddering blowhard who doesn't play games and it hurts my heart to see Blizzard's name attached to them.

On the bright side, if you look at your Wrath box, you won't see Activision's logo on it anywhere. That's more than just literal -- it's symbolic, and I hope that it stays that way for a long, long time.

If you have any specific questions about the merger that you think I can answer, you're more than welcome to email me at sacco [at] wowinsider dot com and I'll compile the questions and responses in a followup article.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

Activision CFO: "Blizzard is top notch"

Develop magazine got to talk to Thomas Tippl, who is Activision's CFO (we've heard a lot from CEO Bobby Kotick, but never from Tippl before) about the Activision Blizzard merger and how it will affect both companies. Tippl reiterates what we've heard before: that Activision has no plans to tell Blizzard how to do their jobs when they've been doing so well already.

He does, however, say that a "portfolio review" is in order, and so employees of Sierra (Vivendi's other games division) should start working on their resumes, if they haven't started already. He also says the sales teams of each company will likely be consolidated -- they want to put an "all-star team" together, but the thing about stars is that not everyone can be one.

So the merger remains good news for Blizzard, not-so-good news for the rest of Vivendi. We're still curious to see what happens when/if Blizzard falls out of Activision's good graces. Sure, everything is peachy-keen right now, but when Blizzard's stubborn commitment to quality bumps up against Activision's almost yearly franchise releases, who'll walk away the victor?

[Via WorldofWar.net]

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, News items

Judge compares Vivendi-Activation merger to a WoW quest

The judge ruling on a dispute related to the Vivendi-Activision deal has used WoW metaphors for the actions of the litigants. William B. Chandler III, the chief judge of the Delaware Court of Chancery, showed an unusually keen grasp of the dynamics of the game -- way more than either of my parents would understand. His ruling describes, among other things, crafting, questing, battlegrounds, guilds, and even our unique linguistic habits. (My mother, for example, calls them typos.) Continuing his analysis, Judge Chandler says that the world of Mergers & Acquisitions is similar to an MMORPG where "participants take on certain roles, interact in their own community, hone specialized skills, and even develop a unique, somewhat curious vernacular." The judge concluded his denial of the injunction with the words "GAME OVER."

Judge Chandler is no stranger to hipness. In previous decisions he has also made references to 50 Cent, Ray Charles, Notorious B.I.G., and Cerberus, the mythological dog that guarded the gates of the underworld. Perhaps he's trying to keep the jurors awake?

Filed under: Virtual selves, News items

The rise, fall, and rise again of the WotLK Information Wiki

This past Monday, June 23, The WotLK Information Wiki relaunched on a new web host after having been pulled down by a Cease and Desist order from Blizzard. Darkside, one of the admins for the WotLK Information Wiki, gave an interview to Medros over at All Things Azeroth to explain what happened. The interview was conducted as part of Medros' podcast Episode 53. Some highlights from the interview include:
  • Most of the information that the alpha wiki provides is a result of file and image extraction from Blizzard's publically-available alpha client.
  • The alpha client files contain all the information on the spells, creatures and environments to be tested and new things are added or subtracted each time the alpha is patched.
  • The alpha wiki folks set up a "sandbox" where they could fly through the new locations and spawn creatures for screenshots.
  • A small portion of the WotLK info -- some screenshots, for example -- has come from Blizzard employees under non-disclosure agreements the identities of whom the alpha wiki admins protect.
  • Blizzard, Vivendi, and Activision IP addresses had visited the wiki frequently since it began.
  • The Cease and Desist order from Blizzard arrived last Friday, June 20. Over the weekend the WotLK wiki admins tried several ways to appease the lawyers and eventually settled on moving to a new web host.
  • The wiki's readership is approximately 200,000 page views per day.
Go to All Things Azeroth to hear the rest of the interview. Make sure you listen to the first few minutes of the podcast to hear a very humorous and well-sung parody of Johnny Cash's Folsom Prison Blues called Pugging Kara Blues.

[Thanks, Matticus and uber.]

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, News items, Expansions, Interviews, Wrath of the Lich King

Activision shareholders to vote on Activision-Blizzard merger

In Blizzard company news, another major milestone for the planned Blizzard-Activision merger is now set for July 8th, when a special meeting of Activision's shareholders will vote on their merger with Vivendi Games, Inc., the parent company of Blizzard. The meeting will take place in Beverly Hills, CA.

So far, Activision's been clearing the hurdles to the merger nicely, and executives from both companies seem pretty excited about the deal, so It seems unlikely that the shareholders will balk too much (then again, there is that lawsuit).

The timing of this meeting is apparently later than expected according to sister site Big Download, but it is worth noting that it still beats out E3, which will take place on July 11th-13th. You'll recall that Blizzard and Activision dropped out of E3. Rumor has it that they are also planning to hold a press conference during E3, on the first day, and being able to reveal final details of when, where, and how the merger will complete during that press conference would be quite a coup, for sure.

[Via Big Download]

Filed under: Blizzard, News items

Vivendi earning statement hints WotLK to be released in second half of 2008

Vivendi earning statements announced today hint that Wrath of the Lich King is expected to be released the second half of 2008. This would also fit into dates that we've seen on sites like Amazon and Gamestop.

This is also significant in that it's the first time an official confirmation of a release time frame has come out. And being that this is the data sent to Vivendi investors, it comes with a good bit of clout.

Additionally, the statement tells us that World of Warcraft now has 10.7 million subscribers, up from 10 million at the end of 2007.

The exact paragraph in the statement is after the break. And of course, stay tuned to WoW Insider for all the latest Wrath of the Lich King news.

Read more →

Filed under: News items, Wrath of the Lich King

All things Wrath of the Lich King

Over the past week, particularly in the last few days, the crisp Internet air has been abuzz with news from the upcoming expansion, Wrath of the Lich King. Fear you're out of the loop? Here's a quick round-up of all the information being released, along with analysis and opinion.

Don't forget to keep checking back, as this page will be updated as information becomes available:

Dungeons and raids
  1. An analysis on Arthas as a ten-manned event, including its impact on the 25-man raiding structure, as well an exploration of its consistency with the lore.
  2. Did you know that all expansion raids will have a 10-man setting, as well as a 25-man?
  3. Read through some of our initial impressions on the 10-man raiding set-up.
  4. We also wrote up a concise overview of the ins and outs of dungeons post-expansion, including a new token system, similar to [Badge of Justice].
  5. The Nexus has been announced on the official site as one of the new dungeons.
  6. The WoW Insider Show discusses 10-manning Arthas.
Zones, factions, and relevant lore
  1. Alex has written an excellent overview of the Grizzly Hills, a soon-to-be zone for low to mid-seventies. With old factions reappearing, along with other surprises, it's definitely something to look forward to!
  2. If news of the Dragonblight has intrigued you, you'll be pleased to know that more information has been made available.
  3. While we're brushing up on our lore and learning about new areas and factions, Alex thought it fitting to illuminate the lore behind Azjol-Nerub, as the Nerubians will have their own role in the expansion.
  4. Alex asks us about lore figures we'd like to see in the expansion.

Read more →

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, News items, Expansions, Screenshots, Raiding, Lore, Factions, Know your Lore, Galleries, Interviews, Death Knight, Wrath of the Lich King, Inscription

Europe approves of the Activizzard merger

Regardless of whatever you think of the big Activizzard merger and what it might mean for World of Warcraft (I don't believe it'll hurt a thing, but think what you will), it's going to happen. It's literally official now, as European Union officials have finally approved the merger after several weeks of deliberating on the issue.

Approval by the European Commission was necessary because Vivendi (the owner of Blizzard and now the buyer of Activision, if you haven't been keeping up with all this) is a French media company, and therefore subject to EU business laws and antitrust concerns. Officials were mulling over the merger because of fears that Vivendi's ownership of Universal Music Group would give Activision Blizzard an unfair advantage in licensing music for games like Guitar Hero.

They finally decided that it's not a threat to the health of the market, and approved the merger. So there it is. It's done. The government can't save you now; Activision Blizzard is your new master. I tremble in terror before the fictional (yet somehow inevitable) Bard class and its l33t Guitar Hero skillz!

Filed under: Blizzard, News items

Blizzard loses a round in the fight against botting

In Blizzard's attempts to get rid of gold farmers and hackers, one of their most annoyingly persistent enemies has been the WoWGlider bot, now known as MMOGlider. They've been throwing suits and countersuits at each other for a few years now, but the latest salvo seems to have gone against Blizzard, the Game Activist reports. Blizzard was trying to subpoena Joe Thaler, owner of Lavish Software LLC, maker of programs such as EQPlayNice. While Lavish Software's programs do not appear to be cheat programs on their own, they did make a deal with MDY Industries, maker of MMOGlider, to use the programs within MMOGlider.

According the judge's decision, Blizzard was hoping to obtain all documentation related to the deal, all communication between Thaler and Lavish and MDY and its owner, Michael Donnelly. They also wanted a list of all WoW accounts owned by Thaler and Lavish, as well as the contents of the WTF folders of every installation of WOW used by Thaler and Lavish Entertainment. Unfortunately, the Judge ruled that Blizzard was demanding information that could compromise Lavish's trade secrets and client confidentiality, and that the demand for the information within 9 days did not give Thaler and Lavish enough time to respond an gather information.

It's worth noting that the judge did specifically say that Blizzard could file another subpoena that would be more narrow in scope and allow more time for Lavish and Mr. Thaler to respond, so this is probably not a fatal blow to Blizzard by any means. I personally hope not. I've never had much patience for bots, or people who feel they have a civil right to cheat at games, so I'm rooting for the big bad corporation on this one. What about you?

Thanks for the link, Tyrsenus.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Cheats, Blizzard, News items

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