As the online news services of sister titles Develop and MCV became the first media to break the story last Sunday afternoon, it became clear that everyone was reacting with similar astonishment.
We broke the news before many Activision and Vivendi Games staff had been told. Indeed, this was less than 48 hours after a certain European boss had been informed.
I was getting suspicious, because I been asked for so much information lately,” he said on Monday. I really didn’t know this was happening. No-one did. It’s incredible that they managed to keep it so quiet.”
And what an extraordinary, seismic event this deal is too. If it all goes through, we have a publisher bigger than EA. Plus we have all the speculation of what it might make EA want to do, or Disney, Warner and the rest have to do.
Personally, I have always been a fan of Activision. Barring a not-so-long-ago period in Europe when it started throwing its weight around, discarding relationships and losing its best staff, it has had a similar power of vision as the very best in the business – such as EA, of course, and Ubisoft and THQ.
It has built revenues, built franchises and stayed passionate and close to gaming in a way that, arguably, Take 2 (in a corporate sense) never really has and many other wannabes never will.
Much of this goes back to a certain Bobby Kotick, Activision CEO and chairman, who appears have taken centre stage again with this deal. Not least because he will be president and CEO of the new company.
Kotick is one of the few execs, particularly American ones, who genuinely made an impression on me when I was a young editor of a trade mag called CTW somewhere between 15 and 20 years ago.
In a fancy London hotel one day in the early ‘90s, he set out his vision for the market, drawing graph after graph on his napkin that showed where the business was heading in terms of size, technology and demographic. His passion and belief was dazzling.
Now Blizzard is merging with Activision I get it – he wants to rule the world. EA and several others will have something to say about that. But my goodness, what a business, and what an incredibly exciting and upwardly mobile industry we work in.
No wonder Codemasters is feeling good about itself right now. No wonder Warner is coming in and Disney is raising its game. From Britsoft to Hollywood, games are where it’s at. When the music industry is being hammered by double digit decline year-on-year, DVD has stalled and cinema needs us more than we need them (just ask Fox) then Vivendi (owner of Universal Music, the world’s largest music company) buying Activision is a big bang indeed.
And make no bones about it, this is Vivendi buying Activision.
They can say merger as much as they like, but it’s an acquisition. Activision staff may get to run it, they might even get to run it fairly independently, in the same way that Universal Music is relatively autonomous. But this is Vivendi flexing the muscles of a conglomerate.
There will surely be a little blood on the carpet in the end, but that’s just the way with any coup and, for now at least, let’s all enjoy the honeymoon. This is a new games publishing giant, no doubt further funded by an IPO in 2008.
Wake up Hollywood? Absolutely.