Many in the gaming community are concerned about the recent announcement that Microsoft’s plan to acquire Activision Blizzard. Having worked within the IT consulting sphere of Microsoft 365 and Azure over the past 8 years, I am less alarmed than most of the gaming community regarding the acquisition. The concerns expressed are understandable given Microsoft’s track record of non-business-related acquisitions. However this one might end up being a blessing for everyone. At least that is my hope and, with any luck after reading this, it will be yours as well.
The overall company culture in Activision Blizzard has a long track record of being less than ideal. They have been publicly admonished for it numerous times, as they should be. Microsoft on the other hand has managed to overhaul their company culture in a very public way. No large organization will provide a perfect cultural fit for everyone, though it is something all organizations should strive for. Microsoft is sure to make this a priority after the acquisition is finalized. It’ll be a tremendous challenge, but thankfully they have a documented roadmap in place to achieve this goal.
My time as a gamer has come and gone, but my 5 boys play regularly. Frequently I hear my 11-year old’s complaining about hackers, especially in Call of Duty. They do not get a ton of game time each week, so I assumed they were not quite as skilled as the other players due to their limited opportunities to improve. Then I watched them play. I immediately realized they were already far better at first person shooters than I had ever been. And they were right: there were quite a few folks using cheats. This is a perfect opportunity for Microsoft to integrate the AI/ML platform to sniff out potential hacking and put a stop to it. This has already been somewhat “proofed out” in Minecraft, albeit not very well. My 7-year-old was locked out for hacking for 2 days last year…he’s smart, but not that smart!
Microsoft has been pushing the virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality into business scenarios for the past few years. This should present an opportunity to really build better experiences by taking lessons learned from gaming to develop platforms, solutions, and devices to elevate both the personal and professional experiences. We are probably a long way from a HoloLens being accessible to the average person from a cost standpoint, but we could see a similar situation presented with the Xbox where the games are the money makers. Ideally, in this scenario it would not be just games, you would have business applications as well.
My expectation is that there is a plan in place to provide value add between the organizations and the associated communities. There are plenty of opportunities to pull this off in a “win-win” fashion for both parties. Microsoft is desperately trying to gain ground in the personal space: Microsoft Teams for Home is not cutting it, and Xbox’s and HoloLens are still very costly to make. Activision Blizzard is trying to find a means to continue growth and renovate their company culture. With this acquisition of, Microsoft will get an instant bump in daily and monthly active users on subscription-based gaming, which is exactly what they are looking for. Plus Activision Blizzard will get the backing of a massive tech organization with mind-boggling resources that has overhauled their organization culture. I have no doubt that the leadership at Microsoft has a solid vision for this acquisition, but I hope they can execute it!