When Drew Bienusa started playing Call of Duty in the summer of 2016, he was instantly addicted. He loved how immersive having a digital avatar was, and the game was a favorite among his friends. Mr. Bienusa was so dazzled that in 2016, he began livestreaming himself playing Call of Duty on the Twitch platform. He gave himself the gamer name Frozone and amassed 114,000 Twitch followers.
In January, he became a professional Call of Duty: Warzone player for the e-sports organization XSET. Bugs in the game went unfixed for months, he said. Activision’s communications with competitive players fell off. And he was turned off by a recent sexual harassment lawsuit against the company that exposed its toxic workplace culture.
So on Tuesday, when Mr. Bienusa, 26, woke up to the news that Microsoft planned to buy Activision for nearly $70 billion, he was jubilant. “New eyes, new people, new owners, new management — it’s a step in the right direction,” he said. “It’s almost at a point where it can’t get worse. Bienusa was one of many gamers who expressed cautious optimism when the biggest-ever deal in the $175 billion games industry was announced.
This acquisition will help bolster Microsoft’s video game ambitions with a library of popular titles, including Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Crash Bandicoot, and Overwatch. Microsoft also positioned the deal as one that would help it delve into the futuristic digital world of the metaverse.
But ultimately, the success of this deal is going to depend on how it is received by gamers. Historically, many players have expressed concern about how acquisitions might affect the quality of online games.
When Microsoft bought the maker of Minecraft in 2014, for example, some gamers were worried. This time, however, the reaction has been more positive. Partly, this is because of how much Activision (with more than 400 million players globally) has appeared to struggle with its core users in recent years. Activision declined to comment.
Microsoft did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Gamers said they saw Microsoft as a potential life raft for Activision Blizzard and a welcome chance to bring new people into gaming. In an email to employees, Activision’s chief executive, Bobby Kotick, said the purpose of the deal was to continue strengthening Activision’s games and culture.
Activision declined to comment further. Microsoft didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Activision’s decline with gamers has unfolded over the last few years. Some said they had been down on the publisher for a while, worried that Activision put too much pressure on some divisions to release frequent hits, rather than giving developers the time to create iconic games. Then last year, Activision was embroiled in a lawsuit over workplace harassment, raising questions about its conduct.