The past year has been one with lots of big news and hectic acquisitions as Sony and Microsoft go head to head to build their gaming empires. Both these gaming giants have been on a shopping spree, buying up developers big and small in an effort to improve their market share.
As well as the obvious questions surrounding game availability for Xbox and PlayStation, there are questions about what we might see in the mobile gaming space moving forward. We have seen that mobile gaming has grown leaps and bounds over the past decade – the level of software development across from regular gaming to the best mobile casinos displays the rapid growth in the wider sector, and with these latest acquisitions in the gaming sphere, this market will continue to grow exponentially.
What has Microsoft been up to?
Starting off with Microsoft, they bought out Activision Blizzard at the start of this year in an acquisition apparently worth almost $70 billion. This is huge news for both the console gaming and mobile gaming space. One of the biggest points to note is that Call of Duty, which has a player count of over 250 million players per year, making it one of the most popular franchises in gaming, now belongs to Microsoft.
In addition to the hugely successful Call of Duty series, Microsoft also acquired World of Warcraft, StarCraft, Diablo, and Overwatch to name just a few of the most iconic Activision titles. Playstation gamers shouldn’t have to worry that these titles will become exclusive to Xbox however, with Microsoft announcing that all Activision Blizzard games, including future Call of Duty releases, will continue to launch on PlayStation consoles even after any existing deals expire.
Microsoft’s acquisition doesn’t stop at console gaming either. Activision had previously bought two of the most successful mobile gaming software developers, Blizzard and King, which also made them part of the Microsoft deal. The mobile gaming developers are responsible for cult favourites like Candy Crush.
What is the latest with Sony?
Looking over at Sony’s most recent acquisition, they bought out Bungie for a modest (by comparison, at least) $3.6 billion. This is the second time Bungie has been bought by a platform holder, given that Microsoft acquired the studio in June of 2000, securing its then-upcoming shooter Halo as an exclusive title for the original Xbox’s 2001 launch. Bungie regained independence shortly after Halo 3 was launched in 2007, but would produce two more exclusive games for the company, with Halo 3: ODST and Halo: Reach.
Since their independence, Bungie had focused its efforts on Destiny, a live-service FPS RPG where players can explore the galaxy as Guardians of Light. Sony Interactive Entertainment’s president CEO Jim Ryan said:
We’ve had a strong partnership with Bungie since the inception of the Destiny franchise, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to officially welcome the studio to the PlayStation family.
In the official Playstation blog post announcing the acquisition, Ryan outlined that Bungie would remain independent, saying:
I want to be very clear to the community that Bungie will remain an independent and multi-platform studio and publisher.
Like the Microsoft acquisition of Activision Blizzard, it is very likely that Sony will allow for Bungie games like the next game in the Destiny franchise to be available on Xbox devices. With cross-play across Xbox, Playstation and PC now commonplace across the online gaming sphere, it makes complete sense financially for the biggest franchises in gaming to be available for as many players as possible.
This means that these acquisitions won’t affect the average gamer all that much, and hopefully, it means that with more money and manpower behind the teams creating your favourite games, we will get bigger and better games.
Why has acquisition activity increased in the gaming industry?
From its early inception in the 1980s, the gaming industry is one that has had big business potential – but over the recent years, as studios refine monetisation methods, we have seen some really phenomenal growth. There are different theories and reasons why the gaming industry, in general, has continued to grow in terms of both popularity and revenue, although ever-developing technology and the effective monetisation of online options have both helped.
With such growth in popularity and technology that is helping to ensure that this growth doesn’t slow down, it really should not be too much of a surprise that big players like Sony and Microsoft want to be even more involved than they already are. Let’s face it, neither brand is new to technology and/or gaming so acquisitions with their involvement aren’t too shocking.
In fact, many industry insiders believe that we’ll see more of this in the future as the big guns look to hold exclusive rights to emerging IPs – especially as many of these packages include things like mobile gaming and the microtransactions within these games allow the industry to have a secure stream of monetisation. The popularity of these puts the emphasis on studios to continue to adapt and grow in order to keep up with customer demand, helping to stabilise their commercial growth and growth in popularity.
Both console and mobile gaming make up a multi-billion dollar industry, and these acquisitions at eye-watering prices may seem ridiculous, but these companies are spending that money for a reason. Video games are no longer the niche art form targeted at a specific segment of the population as they may have been 20-30 years ago, and are now for all demographics as a money-spinning enterprise.
What do these acquisitions mean for the Gaming Industry?
Realistically, it’s going to be a while before we see the effect of such large companies owning both mobile gaming developers and huge console game franchises. Talks are probably already happening behind the scenes about how the two areas can be combined to produce new content and boost revenue. For now, the online gaming community can only speculate, and we’ll have to wait and see what happens over the coming months.
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