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Could Microsoft buy Activision?

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Vivendi, the company that owns the majority stake in Activision-Blizzard is in a bit of a financial pickle. A bit? more like a lot of pickle – as it’s currently sitting with nearly 16 Billion US dollars of debt. Running a game development and publishing house – despite it being the one responsible for the world’s biggest selling video game – only adds to the struggle, with the video game industry posting overall year-on-year sales decreases. It makes sense that Vivendi – largely a TV and music publishing business – would want to pawn the video game business off. But who’ll buy it?

According to Reuters, who’ve run sum (that’s a pun, not a typo) numbers on who could actually afford to buy Activision have come up with just three suitable candidates; Tencent (who is China’s largest and most used Internet service portal, and not a diminutive rapper), Time Warner, and Microsoft.

Tencent makes a modicum of sense; they run the newly released Call of Duty Online in china, as well as the Asian World of Warcraft servers. Different business models make the acquisition unlikely though.

“They have two big franchises, Call of Duty on the console side and World of War Craft on the MMOG (massively multiplayer online game) side. And China is not a big market for console businesses; online games are much bigger for various reasons,” said Random Joe Banker (probably not his real name).

And if you think Activision already churns out nothing but clones of its own, imagine if it was owned by the Chinese?

Time Warner has the money – but does it have the interest? Probably not. Its own Warner Bros Game Studios doesn’t exactly bring the company much in the way of income. Successes with games like Netherrealm’s Mortal Kombat and the Harry Potter licence have served it well, but probably not well enough to consider becoming a much larger player.

Lastly, that leaves Microsoft. It’s a possibility, and the company securing exclusivity to Activision titles – most notably Call of Duty  – for its platform would be a coup. It would, however, probably be quite devastating for the industry as a whole – and considering what’s become of the studios that Microsoft’s acquired (Ensemble, Bizarre, Lionhead, bungie and Rare) it could only spell doom.

To my mind, the only other potential company with the expendable income is Apple – but I really don;t think they’d care to become a game publisher.

Vivendi – who doesn’t consider Activision-Blizzard to be part of its core business – has been rather quiet about its possible disposal of the Activision-Blizzard brand, but has said that “every option is on the table.”

[Thanks to Andriy Podstavnychy for the tip]

Last Updated: July 11, 2012

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