Vivendi and Activision have merged. Now that's a megaton and a half to wake up to on a Monday morning isn't it? The newly formed company, Activision Blizzard, is calling itself "the world's largest pure-play online and console game publisher". Indeed the deal is worth a whopping $18.9 billion. Are you sweating yet EA?
But all this financial technospeak doesn't mean squat to your average gamer. All we care about is the games. So, what does the merger of two of the biggest names in gaming mean for you and the games you love?
Let's just take a step back to absorb exactly how many games this deal affects. Vivendi, the French media behemoth, owns the rights to Crash Bandicoot, Spyro, World in Conflict, TimeShift and Empire Earth, not to mention being the parent company of Blizzard Entertainment, the US-based publisher of World in Warcraft, the world's most popular MMO, Starcraft and Diablo.
To put this into perspective, Blizzard has four of the five best-selling PC games of all time, has sold over 56 million units since 1995 and has the largest online community in the world, with well over 9 million subscribers to its online games. Wow.
Let's have a look at what Activision is bringing to the table. They've got the Tony Hawk's skateboarding games, the hugely popular Guitar Hero series, the excellent FPS franchise Call of Duty and the rights to develop movie and non-movie-based James Bond games. The publisher has 10 multi-million selling franchises on its hands, 12 wholly owned development studios and had net revenues of $1.5 billion for its last fiscal year.
'Blizzard: Development on Wrath of the Lich King and StarCraft II, as well as on our unannounced games, is continuing as normal.'
So you can see just how big Activision Blizzard will be when the deal finally goes through sometime mid-2008. But if you're a fan of any of these games, should you be worried by the merger?
Let's start with Blizzard. In a post on its World of Warcraft forums, the publisher said the deal won't affect any of its games in any way. It said: "This will not impact Blizzard's games. We remain committed to providing the same high-quality game content and support that we always have."
And for those of you worried that the deal might have a knock on effect on WoW expansion Wrath of the Lich King or upcoming RTS StarCraft II, there's no need. The FAQ said: "Development on Wrath of the Lich King and StarCraft II, as well as on our unannounced games, is continuing as normal."
One thing some gamers have worried about is that Blizzard's famous game philosophy "it will be ready when it's ready" might now be under threat. But the publisher has moved to reassure gamers that that Blizzard quality and polish we have all come to know and love will still be in place, and release schedules and timelines are still in place.
So that's great news for Blizzard fans. But what's in store for fans of Vivendi's other games, like Crash Bandicoot and Spyro?
So far we haven't heard anything from Vivendi top brass on the matter, nor have we heard from Activision on whether there will be any impact on its core titles, including the Call of Duty, Guitar Hero and Tony Hawk's games. But our best guess is that there won't be much change here either.
Indeed, we've already had it confirmed that there won't be any games branded under the Activision Blizzard label, and that games from Blizzard Entertainment and games from Activision will continue to be called so. So you won't see an Activision logo anywhere on the box for Wrath of the Lich King, and you won't see Blizzard anywhere on Call of Duty 5.
Might we be seeing some cross-branded games, such as Guitar Hero: Warcraft edition? Or cameo appearances from Spyro and Crash in new Blizzard games? It seems unlikely. Indeed, in the Blizzard FAQ, the publisher stated that Activision and Blizzard will not share development teams.
But what we might see is an increased chance of Blizzard's games coming to consoles. In an interview with 1up, Blizzard President and CEO Mike Morhaime, said the combined company "will have presence across multiple platforms, multiple geographies and will be well diversified and positioned to be a leading entertainment company going forward". He added "that's a great environment for Blizzard to be in".
So, could we see a revival for the console third-person shooter StarCraft: Ghost? Or perhaps we'll see World of Warcraft coming to the Xbox 360 or the PS3? Fingers crossed the new big player in the global video game market, Activision Blizzard, makes it happen. Until then, time to take it to the next level EA!