‘Call of Duty’/’World of Warcraft’ Publisher Goes Independent
Yeah, it’s technically an indie developer now
Published: Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 15:10
Activision Blizzard, video game publishing’s juggernaut, has finally purchased itself from its parent company, Vivendi Universal.
Activision Blizzard is a titan of the games industry. The publisher holds the reins of “Call of Duty,” “World of Warcraft,” and “Skylanders” as well as any number of licensed products from Spider-Man to James Bond.
Next year, the company will be releasing Destiny—the first multi-platform game from developer Bungie since “Halo.” Activision Blizzard’s economic impact and importance to the video game industry is undeniable, no matter how you may feel about its games or practices.
The publisher surprised the industry in announcing a bid to buy 249 million of its stock market shares for $8.17 billion in July.
Unfortunately for the company, and the investment group including Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick and Chairman Brian Kelly, the bid was halted by lawsuits from unhappy shareholders. One of those investors was Douglas M. Hayes, who took issue with the buyout, as it would “unjustly enrich Kelly, Kotick and the other participants.”
The plan worked, for a time, as the Delaware Chancery Court issued a preliminary injunction in response to the lawsuits, halting progress on the publisher’s bid for independence.
Kotick will not be denied, however, as just a few months later (i.e. just a few weeks ago) the Delaware Supreme Court lifted the injunction. On Oct. 13, Activision Blizzard purchased its independence with 429 million shares, while the investment group snagged 172 million (or just about 24.7 percent stake) of the company.
Vivendi Universal isn’t completely out of the game, however, as it holds just about 83 million shares, or about 12 percent of the overall publisher.
Kotick is quite optimistic about the buyout, saying the company’s developers will benefit from a newfound “focused commitment to the creation of great games,” which is a bit like the hyenas saying Pride Rock will be a whole lot better without Scar mucking things up.
Still, some members of the games press have expressed cautious optimism about the newly independent publisher (that’s right, technically speaking, one of the world’s largest and most profitable publishers and development houses have gone indie).
The idea here is that Kotick and the new regime will allow Activision Blizzard’s internal developers more creative leeway, now that they’re out from under the yoke of Vivdendi. Given the company’s track record of mercilessly gobbling up and shuttering subsidiaries, however, that seems unlikely.
It’s likely we’ll continue to see a handful of enormous-budget, high-selling blockbusters like the upcoming “Call of Duty: Ghosts” scheduled for later this year.
Of course, there’s always the chance I’ll be pleasantly surprised, and in this case I would hardly mind being proven wrong about a game company’s intentions for the industry—especially one with the resources to spare like Activision Blizzard.