After two years co-piloting the biggest acquisition in video game history past an onslaught of challenges, Xbox CEO Phil Spencer now moves on to his next quest: making Microsoft’s takeover of Activision Blizzard worth the hassle.
Microsoft, which owns the Xbox gaming system, closed its $69 billion deal to buy game-maker Activision Blizzard on Friday after fending off global opposition from antitrust regulators and rivals.
It marks a career-defining moment for Spencer, who first joined Microsoft as an intern in 1988 and has helmed Xbox since 2014. After years of lagging behind rival Sony’s PlayStation, acquiring Activision’s collection of popular game titles gives Microsoft a rare chance to catch up.
“His job really just starts today,” said analyst Gil Luria, technology strategist at D.A. Davidson, after the deal’s closure. “All he’s been doing is preparing for today where he actually gets to integrate the business.”
And it marks the end of an era for Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick, who’s led the Southern California maker of Call of Duty and other blockbuster franchises since 1991 after helping to buy it from bankruptcy. Kotick said he’s assisting with the transition until the end of the year.
Activision Blizzard was still reeling from worker protests, lawsuits and government investigations over allegations of workplace harassment against women and unequal pay when Microsoft privately reached out about buying the company in 2021.
When the companies announced a planned merger in January 2022, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella made clear it would be “critical for Activision Blizzard to drive forward” on its commitments to improve its workplace culture.
That was just the start of Microsoft’s challenges in bringing home the deal. After negotiations with Spencer faltered, top rival Sony brought its concerns about losing access to the Call of Duty franchise to regulators around the world.