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Posts with tag merger

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, 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-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 staff layoffs may nix WoW mobile

Previously we reported that a mobile version of WoW was being seriously considered at Blizzard. However, with the finalization of the Activision Blizzard merger, the odds of being able to play WoW on your iPhone just got a lot lower. The newly-merged company is laying off 53 employees in the Issaquah, Washington area by September 27, 2008. Additionally, they are evaluating whether they will keep Vivendi Games Mobile, an arm of the company which develops games for the various mobile markets, like phones. If Activision Blizzard does decide to divest themselves of VGM, you can probalby kiss your hopes for WoW mobile goodbye since the synergy and cost-effectiveness of having the mobile developers under the same roof will disappear. I'm not saying that the WoW developers aren't beyond creating their own mobile infrastructure, or even paying higher prices for it to an external company, but it will be much less likely if they don't have the luxury of teaming with folks who all report up the through same corporate food chain.

Among the other companies which Activision Blizzard says are eligible for the chopping block are Sierra Online, Massive Entertainment and Swordfish Studios, with staffing "realignments" likely at Radical Entertainment and High Moon Studios -- the loss of any of which will likely have no effect on WoW development, but may affect other games. Activision has announced that a few highly-anticipated titles are on the bubble, including Ghostusters and Double Fine's Brutal Legend among others. I sure hope they don't mess with Double Fine, since I am a huge Tim Schafer fan, but the upside is that it looks like the new company will have an even stronger focus on keeping their cash cow, WoW, healthy and grazing in the pasture for a long while to come.

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

World of Warcraft, and lack of it, at E3

I was lucky enough to go to E3 this year with the Joystiq crew last week, and while I had planned to cover some stories about WoW for you guys, the biggest story I came back with was: that there was no story. I didn't hear or see World of Warcraft mentioned once. When Blizzard said they were not showing at E3, they meant it -- I didn't even hear a competitor mention their name.

There was one mention of Blizzard at the Activision press conference on Tuesday. Mike Griffith name-dropped Blizzard once just to say the merger had happened, but there was nothing at all about World of Warcraft or any of Blizzard's properties. And I had planned to try out the Novint Falcon controller with WoW. I did try it out, and it is an interesting, if expensive, PC game controller, but Novint told me they didn't have it working in a form they wanted to show off with World of Warcraft yet.

Kind of strange that the biggest game in the world didn't get a single mention at the biggest game show in the world, but then again, it's not that weird when you consider that E3 has scaled way down by magnitudes from past years. Companies aren't as interested in the event when there are many, many other ways to market and show off their games to journalists, and considering that Blizzard has invested heavily in not one but two giant events of their own this year, it's no wonder they don't want to spend any money at E3. Shame that we couldn't bring you more WoW coverage from LA last week, but we'll be back there in October, and there'll be plenty of news to report then.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Events, WoW Social Conventions, Blizzard, BlizzCon, Worldwide Invitational

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

Vivendi is dead, long live Activision-Blizzard

Okay, so we've been waiting for this moment for a few months. The waiting probably hasn't involved breathless anticipation or anything, but there's definitely been waiting. It's now official, and there's very little to go wrong -- Vivendi is merging with Activision, destroying the Vivendi Games name in favor of the new entity: Activision-Blizzard.

Activision shareholders (and a little regulation-fu) were the only hold ups to the process. Today, Activision shareholders voted 92% in favor of merging with Vivendi. Which means that 8% voted against the deal -- I have to wonder what they were thinking. The old Vivendi folks have a 52% control of the new company (called Activision-Blizzard), which is projected to clock over $3.8 billion dollars annually.

The close date is tomorrow -- it's still technically possible that an enormous asteroid may fall from the heavens, plunging the entirety of the Earth into a post-nuclear wasteland. Or, zombies could attack. Maybe Zombie Murlocs, with their own MySpace accounts. But short of a Murloc invasion (I, for one, welcome our new Mrlglglglge overlords), there's nothing left for the merger but for the fat lady to sing.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, News items

Analyst: Activision is a better investment than EA

We'll start this one off with the caveat that these days, you can find an analyst to tell you anything you want, so just in case you want to hear that Activision is apparently a "better investment" than Electronic Arts, Deutsche Bank analyst Jeetil Patel is your man. He says that Activision (the company that's merging with Vivendi/Blizzard, doncha know) is "way ahead" of its big competitor EA in terms of profitability.

His comments are more of an attack against EA than a compliment for Activision, however -- he mentions Call of Duty and Guitar Hero as big franchises for Activision, and they are, but he doesn't say a word about the Blizzard merger at all. And on the EA side, he leaves Rock Band off the list completely (EA is distributing it, not publishing it), and makes no mention at all of Madden or any of EA's other big franchises). Plus, he's been down on EA for a long time.

In short, this isn't going to change anyone's mind. If you're a fan (or stockholder) of Activizzard, then great, there's a bright future in it for you. And if you're not, and you'd rather embrace EA, this guy is just biased enough that he's not going to change your mind. But we're all for competition anyway -- it can be good games time now?

[via Joystiq]

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, News items, Making money

Activision stock reaches a new 52-week high

Steven Mallas over at BloggingStocks notes that Activision's stock (AVTI) capped a new 52-week high yesterday at $36.84. By the end of the day, the final price was slightly lower, but overall it grew nearly 5%. Mallas mentions what's on all of our minds -- Guitar Hero for DS, sure, but Activision is about to pick up a 10-million subscriber powerhouse called Blizzard. That's worth a little something to investors.

So while other, similar companies lost share price yesterday (Electronic Arts and Take Two, for example), our Activision overlords (whom I, for one, welcome with open arms) continues to do well. With Wrath of the Lich King pending around the corner, we can hope for the stock to pick up a few additional pennies. I don't know what effect the whole eSport buzz might have, but it could still be too early to tell.

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

Activision's Bobby Kotick speaks at All Things Digital

Bobby Kotick, CEO ActivisionBobby Kotick, CEO of Activision, took the stage at the All Things Digital conference, and spoke a little more about the Activision Blizzard deal.

Kotick fesses up that a lot of the merger was about Blizzard's people. While a pessimist might read this as "we can't compete with them, so join 'em," what I see is a deep level of respect for Blizzard and its creation. Kotick said, "the merger is really our mechanism to get access to Blizzard's talent, capability and infrastructure." This isn't really a surprise, and reinforces what Kotick's had to say about being considerate of Blizzard's culture.

As has been said before, Kotick doesn't seem like a bad guy. What he's doing is acknowledging the good work Blizzard's done in the past. He straight out says that, "I've never seen anything quite like World of Warcraft, not just as a gaming experience, but as a social experience, as a business."

That's not the kind of sentiment issued by someone who doesn't like what they just bought (Ed: But would someone who just spent $18.8 billion on anything not like it?). While Kotick doesn't say directly much about the future of Blizzard, things are still looking good for our favorite Blue team.

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

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

Mike Morhaime speaks at D.I.C.E. 08

Blizzard Entertainment logoThe D.I.C.E. Summit's official site describes the event, currently taking place in Las Vegas, as a meeting of "the video game industry's most influential leaders," so of course you know Blizzard's there. Gamesindustry.biz's coverage of Mike Morhaime's presentation today doesn't reveal anything too earth-shattering about the company or the World of Warcraft. It's about the same thing we've heard from him in the past, but hey, if the presentation isn't broke, don't fix it, right?

It's still good to hear that Blizzard's on the right track, of course, and it's actually amazing that even with Mike Morhaime about to get his eighth boss, Blizzard's stayed pretty consistent on quality and dependability, as almost anyone who's had to switch bosses can tell you. But it looks like that, even with the Activision merger, we can expect the same tradition of long development cycles leading to quality games, which is, if familiar news, also comforting news.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, News items

Comical side of Activision/Vivendi merger

Whether you are for, against, or completely neutral to the Activision/Vivendi merger, you'll enjoy Action Trip's latest comic in light of the situation.

You don't need to know all of the details, or what this means for Blizzard, to understand and have a laugh. Simply note that Activision is the company that brought out titles such as Guitar Hero and Call of Duty.

I'm a particular fan of this comic, and I'm not exactly sure why. I mean, I do play Horde, and an orc at that; and no one likes to get ganked! The style in which the night elf is depicted, combined with the last frame, had me laughing out loud though.

If you hadn't heard about the merger, or would like to learn more about what this means for World of Warcraft, head over to Mike's recent update on the situation, as well as his coverage of an interview with Blizzard President and CEO, Mike Morhaime. Dan also wrote up a post summarizing the official press release and pointing to some top-notch articles around the web for more information.

If you feel you have a particularly solid grasp on the matter, Elizabeth has asked for your predictions on the future of the company. Because I know you can all tell the future, there's no point in keeping it to yourselves.

Filed under: Fan stuff, Blizzard, Comics

Breakfast Topic: Your new Activision overlords


We've all had a couple of days to mull over the news of the big Activision Vivendi merger announced this weekend. The forums, official and unofficial, have been filled with outcries of concern over what this means for the future of Blizzard and their favorite game, while Blizzard has reassuringly repeated that nothing is really changing. But after all the excitement dies down, the truth is that it's all just words until we see what happens. But today I'm asking for your predictions: where will the new Activision Blizzard be a year from now?

Filed under: Blizzard, Breakfast Topics

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