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Microsoft today announced it will sell cloud gaming rights for Activision Blizzard games to Ubisoft in an effort to appease regulators in the UK that are concerned about the impact of Microsoft's proposed $68.7 billion deal on the competition.
In January 2022, Microsoft announced the proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard, Inc., to advance our goal to bring more creative and innovative games to players everywhere and on any device. Today, we are taking another important step regarding this transaction. To address the concerns about the impact of the proposed acquisition on cloud game streaming raised by the UK Competition and Markets Authority, we are restructuring the transaction to acquire a narrower set of rights. This includes executing an agreement effective at the closing of our merger that transfers the cloud streaming rights for all current and new Activision Blizzard PC and console games released over the next 15 years to Ubisoft Entertainment SA, a leading global game publisher. The rights will be in perpetuity.
As a result of the agreement with Ubisoft, Microsoft believes its proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard presents a substantially different transaction under UK law than the transaction Microsoft submitted for the CMA’s consideration in 2022. As such, Microsoft today has notified the restructured transaction to the CMA and anticipates that the CMA review processes can be completed before the 90-day extension in its acquisition agreement with Activision Blizzard expires on October 18.
Under the restructured transaction, Microsoft will not be in a position either to release Activision Blizzard games exclusively on its own cloud streaming service – Xbox Cloud Gaming – or to exclusively control the licensing terms of Activision Blizzard games for rival services.
The agreement provides Ubisoft with a unique opportunity to commercialize the distribution of games via cloud streaming. The agreement will enable Ubisoft to innovate and encourage different business models in the licensing and pricing of these games on cloud streaming services worldwide. Ubisoft will compensate Microsoft for the cloud streaming rights to Activision Blizzard’s games through a one-off payment and through a market-based wholesale pricing mechanism, including an option that supports pricing based on usage. It will also give Ubisoft the opportunity to offer Activision Blizzard’s games to cloud gaming services running non-Windows operating systems.
Of importance, Microsoft’s obligations to provide cloud streaming rights in the European Economic Area remain in place, in full compliance with Microsoft’s commitments to the European Commission. The agreement with Ubisoft has been structured so that Microsoft will still acquire the rights needed to honor fully its legal obligations under its commitments to the European Commission, as well as its existing contractual obligations to other cloud game streaming providers, including Nvidia, Boosteroid, Ubitus, and Nware. Microsoft is engaging closely with the European Commission to support the EC’s assessment of the agreement and confirmation that the commitments remain undisturbed.
Since our initial announcement with Activision Blizzard in January last year, we have endeavored to earn regulatory approval for the transaction, addressing concerns when raised, including by entering into binding legal commitments to bring Call of Duty to rival consoles and Activision Blizzard games to rival cloud streaming platforms. As a result, the transaction is now in a position to move forward in more than 40 countries.
We believe that this development is positive for players, the progression of the cloud game streaming market, and for the growth of our industry. And, as we continue to navigate the review process with the CMA, we remain as committed as ever to bringing the incredible benefits of the acquisition to players, developers, and the industry. Today’s development brings us one step closer to bringing the joy of gaming to players everywhere.
Source: Microsoft Blog
Blizzard have announced a big change, as they will be bringing some games to Steam! Company President Mike Ybarra announced this a short while ago. Overwatch 2 is coming to Steam on October 10th, and it hasn't been announced what other games may follow. The game's Steam page is live now.
Here's the official OW2 post:
Overwatch 2 on Steam (Source)
As Blizzard evolves as a studio, inside and out, one of the ideas pushing us forward is meeting players around the world where they are and making our games as easy as possible to access and play. We want to give everyone a chance to experience our universes with old friends while making new ones, no matter how they choose to play.
Battle.net is the home of all our PC players, and over the years, we’ve evolved our platform to support updated technologies, capabilities, and our communities’ expectations. But as we’ve evolved, the industry has evolved too–gaming is no longer just for specific communities as it was when Battle.net launched over two decades ago, gaming is for everyone–and though we remain committed to continually investing in and supporting Battle.net, we want to break down the barriers to make it easier for players everywhere to find and enjoy our games.
Which is why we’re trying something new.
We’re excited to announce that we are bringing a selection of our games to Steam, starting with Overwatch 2… which will be available on the platform on August 10!
“It’s our goal at Blizzard to listen to players and try to exceed their expectations in everything we do,” said Mike Ybarra, President of Blizzard Entertainment. “While Battle.net remains a priority for us now and into the future, we’ve heard players want the choice of Steam for a selection of our games, starting with Overwatch 2 on August 10th. We’re happy to work with Valve to make that happen.”
"Gamers and developers are both going to benefit from Overwatch 2 coming to Steam," said Gabe Newell, Valve's president. "Gamers will have another platform where they can play a beloved game that utilizes the capabilities of Steam, and developers will benefit from the effects of having the talented team at Blizzard helping us evolve our supported features and functionality for Overwatch 2."
As a free-to-play, team-based game, we believe Overwatch 2 is the perfect title for Blizzard’s debut on the platform. Overwatch 2: Invasion is launching with more new types of gameplay experiences than at any point in the game’s storied 7-year history, including the first-ever set of PvE Story Missions, a new core PvP game mode with two new maps, and of course, a new hero. It’s a great opportunity for new players to enjoy their first experience of the Overwatch universe.
Overwatch 2’s presence on Steam is in addition to Battle.net, so the incredible community already accessing the game through Battle.net can play as they have with no changes required. Players on Steam will still need to connect Overwatch 2 to a Battle.net account, as we require for all platforms, which enables cross-platform play and more. Players using Steam will have access to features of the platform while playing Overwatch 2, such as Steam achievements, their Steam friends list, and the ability to invite them to play in-game. We’re excited to see the response from the Overwatch community–both veteran players and new ones who come on board through Steam–and we’re looking forward to hearing their feedback.
As far as what’s next for Blizzard on Steam, we’ll be sharing more about potential other games coming to the platform when the time is right.
The Overwatch 2 Steam page is live now, and is available to wishlist! We invite the Overwatch community to give their new teammates playing from Steam a warm welcome on August 10!
To stay up to date with everything Blizzard, be sure to follow us on Twitter.
Blizzard have announced the sale date for BlizzCon tickets! The event returns this year after a long hiatus, and you can try and get your tickets on July 8th and 22nd!
After four years away, BlizzCon® is returning to Anaheim, California on November 3-4! We’re so excited to get everyone together again, celebrate our communities, and share what we’ve been working on.
This year, the goal is to make BlizzCon® feel more experiential than ever before. It will be a one-of-a-kind immersive experience, bringing attendees into the universes of Warcraft®, Diablo®, and Overwatch® with massive installations, art, and thematic spaces where friends can connect. Whether you’re kicking back in Azeroth, exploring the mysteries of a dark cathedral of Sanctuary, playing alongside the heroes of Overwatch®, or tuning in from home, we want you to feel you are entering universes alongside your friends as you celebrate and experience what we’re building next, and hear from developers all across Blizzard about their vision for our games, their craft, and more.
This is the first time we are building BlizzCon this way, and our vision is that building a giant playground for our communities will allow everyone to create memories, share stories, and celebrate what unites us.
Here’s what you need to know!
Tickets will be sold in two waves through AXS: if you don’t have an AXS account already, we recommend making one in advance. The first wave will go on sale Saturday, July 8 at 10 a.m. PDT. The second wave will go on sale Saturday, July 22 at 10 a.m. PDT. Please note that you can purchase a maximum of two tickets per transaction. You’ll find more information about BlizzCon tickets at BlizzCon.com. Some content at BlizzCon is rated for Mature audiences and is not suitable for children: children under 7 will not be permitted to enter, and anyone under the age of 17 must be accompanied by an adult.
If you can’t make it to the show in person, BlizzCon 2023 will be live streamed free of charge. The Virtual Ticket will be back as an optional purchase, featuring in-game goodies, early access to exclusive BlizzCon merch, and more. Details to come.
If you are a member of the press or content creator residing in North America looking to attend the event, please keep an eye out for our press portal, which will open at a later date. International media and content creators can reach out to their regional Blizzard PR contact.
BlizzCon Arena: the Opening Ceremony seating random-draw system, panels, and Community Night
While the Opening Ceremony will be available to watch on screens in every hall, the ceremony itself will take place in its entirety in the BlizzCon Arena. Due to limited seating, a random-draw system will be used to distribute tickets in advance for a seat to view the Opening Ceremony in the arena - all ticket holders are opted in as default, additional details to come.
All panels, as well as Community Night, will also take place in the BlizzCon Arena, and seating will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Just like the Opening Ceremony, all panels and Community Night will be simulcast around BlizzCon, as well as live streamed for free to our virtual attendees.
We’re bringing all on-stage stage activities to the BlizzCon Arena as we strive to bring a one-of-a-kind immersive experience throughout the venue. This gives us an opportunity to enhance the experiential aspect of the show for in-person attendees, and allows us to bring a comprehensive virtual experience for those to choose to tune in from home.
Community Contest Categories and Prizing
While we prepare the full ruleset of each competition, here are the basics you need to know if you want to get started on your cosplay, art, or short film now:
Mastery of one or more traditional or cutting-edge crafting techniques, such as sewing, embroidery, blacksmithing, woodworking, leatherworking, working with foam, 3D printing, and more.
Demonstrates excellence in using large-scale fabrication to create a legendary, larger-than-life character. Costumes must be able to fit within a 39”x39” area, be safely maneuverable up and down a 1:12 ratio, ADA-compliant ramp to reach stage level, and must be able to become shorter than 77” to maneuver through a standard doorway.
Demonstrates excellence in incorporating special effects such as lighting, complex mechanical or robotic elements, and more.
Awards an outstanding pair of contestants whose cosplay represents a legendary set of two Blizzard characters: ancient rivals, best friends, heroes and sidekicks, and other prime pairings.
Best In Show
Each category winner is entered into an overall, best-in-show prize.
For the Art Contest, we will be asking community artists to submit original artwork based around Blizzard’s universes – this can include sketches, paintings, sculptures, and more, physical or digital.
The Short Film Contest will ask entrants to create a previously unreleased digital short (3 minutes or under) that uses or finds its basis in characters, animations, scenes, or themes from Blizzard’s universes.
Full details about Community Night contests and the Cosplay Exhibition, including prizing, will be shared soon: keep an eye on Twitter for announcements.
BlizzCon 2023 Charity Auction
The BlizzCon Charity Auction is back for 2023, a virtual auction for members of the global community everywhere to bid on an array of unique Blizzard artwork and collectibles to benefit a charitable organization. This year’s charity auction will benefit Direct Relief, a humanitarian aid organization active in more than 80 countries. Their mission is to improve the health and lives of people affected by poverty or emergencies – without regard to politics, religion, or ability to pay. Learn more about Direct Relief here, and we’ll have more details to come!
Overwatch World Cup (OWWC)
The first Overwatch World Cup champion of the Overwatch 2 era will be crowned this year, and it’s all going down in front of a live audience against the iconic backdrop of BlizzCon! The Top 8 teams will battle it out in single-elimination bracket finals live at BlizzCon. For more information about the OWWC, head to the Overwatch World Cup website.
Code of Conduct
We want everyone at BlizzCon to feel like they're part of one big Blizzard community. We ask that everyone at the show be respectful and courteous to their fellow attendees.
If you witness or experience any activity that puts someone's safety or enjoyment of the show at risk, inform a staff member, security guard, or police officer. We have escalation procedures in place to handle these kinds of situations, and we will take the appropriate action from there.
In order to ensure the event provides a safe, enjoyable, and welcoming environment for everyone, Blizzard reserves the right to remove from BlizzCon any person whose conduct is deemed to be disorderly, unbecoming, who uses vulgar or abusive language, or in any way deemed non-compliant with our rules and regulations.
Zero Tolerance Policy
Please note that BlizzCon show management has a zero-tolerance policy for harassment of any kind. Harassment will not be tolerated at BlizzCon, anyone found to have engaged in harassing or threatening behavior will face appropriate consequences as determined by BlizzCon show management including but not limited to having their ticket revoked and issued a permanent ban to the show. Onsite security and police may be notified in accordance with all California state laws and governing procedures.
If you feel any concerns about your safety prior to the show, please email us at [email protected].
We are committed to providing an outstanding experience for all attendees at BlizzCon. We strive for access to all activities—to the fullest extent possible—based on an awareness of attendees' needs and appropriate planning. This includes accommodations for aides/personal assistants, American Sign Language and/or open captioning of everything happening in the BlizzCon Arena, service animal accommodations, personal consideration rooms, and priority seating. We ask that all accessibility requests be made by September 1, 2023, so that we can best meet individual needs, by contacting us at [email protected]. On-site requests will be accommodated to the best of our ability; however, available resources at that time may be limited. For additional information about available services, please visit BlizzCon.com.
See you there!
For more information, head over to the official BlizzCon site, and follow us on Twitter to stay up-to-date with further BlizzCon announcements.
Activision Blizzard announced their financial results for Q1 2023 and we have the highlights.
For the quarter ended March 31, 2023, Activision Blizzard's net bookings were $1.86 billion (up from $1.48 billion for Q1 2022). In-game net bookings were $1.29 billion (up from $1.01 billion for Q1 2022). Activision Blizzard generated $577 million in operating cash flow for the quarter (down from $642 for Q1 2022). Microsoft plans to acquire Activision Blizzard for $95 per share in an all-cash transaction, which has been approved by the board of directors of both Activision Blizzard and Microsoft and by Activision Blizzard's stockholders. Blizzard segment revenue increases 62% year-over-year in Q1, with each of Warcraft, Overwatch, and Diablo contributing to growth. Segment operating income was broadly stable year-over-year, reflecting development and marketing costs, including launch investments ahead of the Q2 Diablo 4 release. Following the November release of Dragonflight, the WoW team is delivering more content faster than ever before, and subscriber retention in the West is higher than at the equivalent stage of recent Modern expansions. Diablo Immortal contributed to Blizzard's Q12 net bookings growth with the game experiencing stable trends across engagement, retention, and player investments. Warcraft: Arclight Rumble continues to progress well through regional testing. Diablo 4 will launch on PC and console on June 6. Public testing of the game in March saw very high engagement and positive feedback, and strong pre-sales. This ambitious title will serve as the launch for a compelling live service, with regular seasons and story-driven expansions planned to drive engagements for many years to come. Blizzard monthly active users dropped by 40% (from 45 million in Q4 2022 to 27 million in Q1 2023). Source: Investor Activision
A Misunderstanding May Have Been the Cause of Activision Blizzard Games Not Being Available in ChinaBy Starym
The break in Activision Blizzard's partnership with NetEase in China which happened in January this year cost many Chinese players the ability to play Blizzard games, and today the New York Times may have some insight as to how the relationship between the two gaming giants might have gone wrong.
While tensions had been building for years before the final negotiations last year, ranging from NetEase's investment in Western studios Activision wasn't happy with (former Activision-owned studio Bungie being one), in the end the fate of Chinese players' Blizzard accounts may have come down to a misunderstanding. The Zoom call in question happened last October, between Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick and NetEase chief executive William Ding, and involved translators at certain points in the conversation.
As reported by the New York Times, based on accounts from 4 people familiar with the talks and a document they reviewed, the call was part of the standard re-negotiation of licensing rights between the two companies. The discussion arrived at the topic of the merger between Activision Blizzard and Microsoft and the scrutiny it had come under all around the world, but particularly in China. According to two people familiar with the call and the document reviewed by the New York Times, Activision executives recalled that at a certain point Mr. Ding said NetEase "could sway the [Chinese] government either to block or support that deal depending on the outcome of the licensing discussion." Reportedly the Activision executives felt that the statement was meant as a threat, but NetEase executives claim they did not intend to make any threat. They stated that they were just trying to be conciliatory towards Activision, meaning to simply point out that Microsoft would have the same issues Activision now had with the Chinese regulators, and that the new deal NetEase was proposing would help in both situations. A NetEase spokesman flatly denied that there were any threats as well, saying that Activision was continuing to "harass and taunt companies and regulators worldwide."
NetEase employees tearing down the Gorehowl statue in China.
Source: chaijingNDS on TikTok, via Dexerto.
After the call Activision reportedly made a completely different licensing offer, for approximately $500 million upfront, as opposed to the previous smaller payments throughout the course of the deal, which NetEase rejected. There was also a quite literal last ditch effort on the part of Activision later on, asking to extend the existing deal for 6 months as it looked for a new Chinese partner, but that was also rejected by NetEase. Finally, on January 23rd 2023, most of Activision Blizzard's games were shut down in China, with players not being able to access their characters, which some had spent over a decade and a half building. And while their data has been saved, it is still unclear when or even if they will be able to use those accounts and characters again.
The New York Times article has many more details about the two companies' dealings, so make sure to check it out over here, as it is very eye-opening.