Bits & Bytes: The Activision/Blizzard Deal Stinks

Don’t call it a comeback, but Bits & Bytes has returned!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 10/22/2023 15:39 Comment on this     ShareThis

Bits & Bytes is a weekly column where Editor-in-Chief Robert shares his thoughts about video games and the industry on a lazy Sunday. Light reading for a day of rest, Bits & Bytes is short, to the point, and something to read with a nice drink.

Did you miss me? Yeah, me neither. Anyhoo, Bits & Bytes is back after a long hiatus as there’s plenty to talk about still in the world of video games. This time around it’s the long-gestating acquisition of Activision/Blizzard by Microsoft. And the whole thing stinks, I tell you.

Not necessarily just because of the, let’s say, seemingly dubious nature of how the deal came to fruition (allegedly, or whatever other qualifier I need to put here to stay out of legal trouble). No, for me it stinks because mergers of this ilk and of this scale inevitably lead to layoffs. There are countless workers at all three companies who are likely watching their inboxes with bated breath as they wonder if they’ll be among the first sent packing once the corporate bean counters start figuring out who to axe in order to save a few pennies.

It’s the name of the game when it comes to the video game industry, sadly. Small companies spend their time scrambling for funding, living precariously from the revenue generated by each project, while larger companies cut staff even after multimillion-dollar success stories. There are exceptions, of course, but overwhelmingly it feels like to work in video games is to be part of a never ending lose-lose scenario. Unless someone manages to cement a lead role or some position of note and power, everyday workers are absolute cannon fodder.

Which totally sucks when considering the time and effort it takes to get the sort of specialized education one needs just to get a foot through the door to land one of these jobs in the first place. Now, Microsoft has gotten its hands on one of the biggest companies in the entire industry and I will be flabbergasted if we don’t start seeing pink slips start to flutter down from the rafters that the payroll vultures sit perched in. However, as I have noted to my students, I honestly don’t know what fixes this ongoing problem. Some continue to tout unionization as the answer, but I don’t know if it’s the panacea that so many social media pundits and half-baked journalists think it is.

Still, if there’s any silver lining to be found here, it’s that Microsoft seems fairly dedicated to keeping at least some of the properties under the umbrella of Activision/Blizzard multiplatform. When the company acquired developer Mojang back in 2014, many speculated that Minecraft would become exclusive to Xbox and Windows platforms. Instead, Microsoft realized that limiting access to the game would have effectively killed its value and to this day has maintained Minecraft on virtually every bit of hardware it can run on. That same mindset seems to be carrying through here, at least for now, especially as Microsoft continues to proclaim that the future is cloud gaming and not dedicated hardware.

We’ll see what the future holds. I just feel bad for the workers that will be looking for new jobs. Let’s hope I’m wrong.

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