Activision Blizzard reportedly considered buying video game media outlets Kotaku and PC Gamer in a bid to change public opinion of the company.
A new report published by the Wall Street Journal delving into the circumstances surrounding Microsoft’s recent acquisition of the publisher alleges that Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick may have attempted to purchase a video game publication prior to the deal in order to change his company’s public image.
“Mr. Kotick has been eager to change the public narrative about the company, and in recent weeks has suggested Activision Blizzard make some kind of acquisition, including of gaming-trade publications like Kotaku and PC Gamer, according to people familiar with him,” the report states.
While the article makes the claim that this could have been the case, it also states that an Activision spokeswoman disputed the claims and that both G/O Media (Kotaku’s parent company) and PC Gamer didn’t respond when reached out to comment.
Even if Activision Blizzard had been able to purchase either site, the conflicts of interest, ethical concerns, and internal politics such a move would likely cause could have proven highly damaging. Even without specific demands that a journalistic outlet write positive coverage about a scandal-hit company, that ownership would likely result in a chilling effect – something which in itself would cause further scandal.
Microsoft announced its intent to acquire Activision Blizzard earlier this week. The deal, which weighs in at a stunning $68.7 billion, means that Xbox will soon own a number of additional IPs including the likes of Call of Duty, Overwatch, Diablo, and Warcraft. According to an email sent to staff by Kotick, the company expects the deal to close “sometime in Microsoft’s fiscal 2023 year ending June 30, 2023”, at which point all Activision Blizzard companies would report to Xbox boss Phil Spencer.
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Activision Blizzard has been at the center of a number of legal scandals in the last year with many circulating around Kotick. At present, IGN understands that no decision has been taken around Kotick’s future at the company after the deal closes. Although he is set to remain in charge until the acquisition goes through, according to WSJ, sources familiar with the deal have suggested that he will leave after that point.
Following the announcement of the deal, the ABK Workers Alliance, which has campaigned for better working conditions at the company following the scandals, released a statement on the acquisition saying that the group’s goals remain unchanged. “The news of Activision’s acquisition by Microsoft is surprising, but does not change the goals of the ABK Worker’s Alliance,” the Alliance said in a thread on Twitter.
The news of Activision’s acquisition by Microsoft is surprising, but does not change the goals of the ABK Worker’s Alliance. (1/6)
— ABetterABK 💙 ABK Workers Alliance (@ABetterABK) January 18, 2022
“We remain committed to fighting for workplace improvements and the rights of our employees regardless of who is financially in control of the company. We will continue to work alongside our allies across the gaming industry to push for measurable change in an industry that desperately needs it. We called for the removal of Bobby Kotick as CEO in November for shielding abusers and he still remains CEO as of this writing.”
For more from the recent acquisition, make sure to check out this article that delves into the notion that the video games industry is currently partaking in a content war rather than a console war.
Jared Moore is a freelance writer for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter.