The dust is finally starting to settle from Microsoft’s huge acquisition of Activision Blizzard, but even Blizzard president Mike Ybarra still isn’t exactly sure how things will change for the company, The Verge reported. “I literally haven’t sat down with [Microsoft Gaming CEO] Phil [Spencer] and said, “So, what does all this mean?” Ybarra tells The Verge in an interview.
Ybarra doesn’t seem worried, though. As part of his opening remarks at Friday’s BlizzCon 2023 keynote, Ybarra said that the show as the start of a “new era” for the company.
“I think the way [Spencer] approaches building teams and focusing on culture and enabling creative freedom is going to give Blizzard a lot more of that sense of being an independent studio than ever before,” Ybarra says. “That’s what I really mean when I talk about a new era of possibilities, of empowerment, of serving players even better than we ever have.” (It probably also helps that Ybarra worked for Spencer for eight years before joining Blizzard.)
Right now, things are “pretty much business as usual,” Ybarra says. Spencer and his team visited Blizzard recently, but “it was more about just meeting people,” Ybarra says. “They didn’t want to talk about business.” It seems like that means any Microsoft-driven changes might be a little ways out: Spencer has already said not to expect any Activision Blizzard games on Xbox Game Pass until 2024, for example.
Video Games Chronicle reported that the Xbox maker completed its $69 billion purchase of Activision Blizzard last month, in the process of taking ownership of franchises including World of Warcraft, Diablo and Overwatch.
Discussing the idea with The Verge, Ybarra said he thinks Blizzard will be afforded more freedom that has previously been the case.
Ybarra, who joined Blizzard in 2019 following almost 20 years at Microsoft was joined by Spencer on stage during BlizzCon’s opening ceremony last week.
Microsoft’s head of gaming, who recently visited the Warcraft studio with Xbox’s leadership team to meet employees, proclaimed “the future of Blizzard is brighter than ever” during last week’s fan convention.
“Blizzard’s influence is everywhere, and because of its enduring legacy and phenomenal, revolutionary development, with a care and a craft that is incredibly rare in this industry,” he said.
“Our commitment at Xbox is to bring more great games to more players, in more places. And now that Blizzard is part of Xbox, we will nurture the essence of what has made Blizzard unique.
“We are going to empower our new colleagues in a culture of trust, inclusion, and collaboration, to continue what they do best: redefining existing genres, creating new, never before seen experiences, and uniting players globally in new ways – in Azeroth, in Sanctuary, in near-future Earth, and beyond.”
I didn’t go to BlizzCon this year, but I was able to watch some of the panels online. It sounds like Blizzard gaming and Xbox are going to be a good match. I’m looking forward to seeing what this merger will do for both companies.