Acquisitions have become the cool new thing in the gaming industry. It started with Xbox committing to more first-party titles and has spread throughout the industry. Both Microsoft and Sony have been trying their best to buy studios that can deliver high-quality titles for their platforms.
Recently, we discussed how Xbox might be dominating the current gen. With 32 studios developing games for their platform, the Xbox brand seems better than ever at this point. Furthermore, Microsoft’s most recent acquisition has been their biggest and perhaps most controversial one yet. Not too long ago, Microsoft announced that the company would be buying Activision Blizzard for $68.7 Billion.
However, it seems like this deal was a long time goal for Xbox. In the most recent Xbox Era Podcast, we learned that Microsoft tried to buy Blizzard almost two decades ago. Episode 105 of the Podcast featured an Xbox veteran, Ed Fries. Ed is one of the most prominent figures on the Xbox team. He led the team that made the original Xbox in the late 1990s, and he also played an important role in the acquisition of developers like Bungie and Rare.
The information comes courtesy of Ed’s answer to a question on the Podcast.
As the video shows, Ed was asked about an acquisition he had wanted to do. Interestingly, one of the studios he named was “Blizzard.” He said,
I tried really hard to buy Blizzard. I was a huge Blizzard fan. If you think about the roots of our pc gaming business, it was real time strategy. Warcraft of course, was their biggest product.
“They got acquired very very early in their history, by this company called Davidson. They were always part of this bigger organization. What happened was, their parent organization put them up for sale once in the 90s. I tried to buy them and I got outbid by a company called CuC which runs a timeshare camping business.”
However, the company ended up having internal problems, and Blizzard was once again put up for sale. In a similar turn of events, Microsoft was again outbid by a French water utility. Ed said,
“They were part of that for a while and then there were a bunch of issues and the whole company fell apart, then Blizzard gets put up for sale a second time. And I bid again, and this time I get outbid by a French Water Utility.’
It should also be noted that this was before Blizzard became the big name that it is today. Ed explained that prior to Activision’s buyout, Blizzard was sold three times. Once they developed World Of Warcraft, it became impossible to buy the company.
It is certainly interesting to learn about the past of gaming companies like Xbox. Perhaps, even back then, acquisitions were something that Microsoft would resort to as a newcomer to the industry. Had Microsoft been able to acquire Blizzard, the games industry would have looked entirely different right now.
People like Fries played an essential role in making Xbox the brand it is today. Fries started his journey as an intern at Microsoft and went on to work on products like Excel and Word for the company before moving on to the game’s division. Games like Halo would not have been possible without Ed’s leadership at the helm. Fries departed Microsoft in 2004 but left behind a considerable legacy for the whole team to look up to.
Currently, Microsoft is only moments away from buying Activision Blizzard. However, Microsoft is still waiting on Activision shareholders and regulators before the deal goes through. Once finalized, Microsoft will own properties like Call of Duty, Overwatch, World of Warcraft, and the rest of Activision Blizzard’s catalog.
However, Activision’s SOC group has advised shareholders to vote against Microsoft’s acquisition. This could be a considerable hurdle for Microsoft, but it is clear that they have no intentions of stepping down at this point.
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