Activision Blizzard

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Activision Blizzard, Inc.
Public
Traded as
ISINUS00507V1098
IndustryVideo game industry
Predecessor
FoundedJuly 10, 2008; 10 years ago (2008-07-10)[1]
Headquarters,
U.S.
Key people
Products
RevenueIncrease US$7.017 billion[2] (2017)
Decrease US$1.309 billion[2] (2017)
Decrease US$0.274 billion[2] (2017)
Total assetsIncrease US$18.668 billion[2] (2017)
Total equityIncrease US$9.462 billion[2] (2017)
Number of employees
Increase 9,625[3] (2018)
Subsidiaries
Websiteactivisionblizzard.com

Activision Blizzard, Inc. is an American video game and film holding company based in Santa Monica, California.[4] The company was founded in July 2008 through the merger of Activision and Vivendi Games, the company is traded on the NASDAQ stock exchange under the ticker symbol ATVI,[5] and since 2015 has been one of the stocks that make up the S&P 500.[6] Activision Blizzard currently includes five business units:[7] Activision, Blizzard Entertainment, Major League Gaming,[8] Activision Blizzard Studios,[9][10] and King.[11]

The company owns and operates additional studios under an independent studios model, including Treyarch, Infinity Ward, High Moon Studios and Toys for Bob,[7] and its titles have broken a number of release records.[12] Call of Duty: Black Ops III grossed $550 million in worldwide sales during its opening weekend in 2015, making it the biggest entertainment launch of the year.[13][14] The company's franchises also include Activision's Call of Duty,[15] and Skylanders;[16] Blizzard Entertainment's World of Warcraft, StarCraft,[7] Diablo, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, and Overwatch; and King's Candy Crush Saga, Pet Rescue Saga, and Farm Heroes Saga.[11] As of March 2018, it is the largest game company in the Americas and Europe in terms of revenue and market capitalization.[17]

History[edit]

Background and formation (2007–2008)[edit]

In 1991, Bobby Kotick and a group of investors had acquired the failing Mediagenic, the company that Activision had become from former leadership. Kotick instituted a large restructuring to pull the company out of debt, including renaming the company as Activision and moving it to Santa Monico, California. After bringing the company back to profitability by 1997, Kotick spent the next decade expanding Activision's products through acquisitions of an estimated 25 studios, which resulted in several successful series of games, including Tony Hawk's, Call of Duty, and Guitar Hero. However, by around 2006, the popularity of massively multiplayer online (MMO) games started to grow. Such games provide a constant revenue stream to their publishers, rather than only a single purchase, making them a more valuable proposition. None of Activision's subsidiaries had an MMO or the capability to make one quickly. Furthering this, Activision was facing tougher competition from companies like Electronic Arts, as well as slowdowns in sales of their key game series.[18]

Around 2006, Kotick reached out to Jean-Bernard Lévy, the CEO of the French media conglomerate Vivendi. Vivendi at that time had a small games division, Vivendi Games, a holding company principally for Sierra Entertainment and Blizzard Entertainment. Kotick wanted to get access to Blizzard's World of Warcraft, a successful MMO, and suggested a means to acquire this to Lévy. Lévy instead offered that he would be willing to merge Vivendi Games with Activision, but only if Vivendi kept majority control of the merged company. According to those close to Kotick, Kotick was concerned about this offer as it would force him to cede control of Activision. However, after talking to Blizzard's CEO Mike Morhaime, Kotick recognized that Vivendi would be able to give them inroads into the growing video game market in China.[18]

Kotick proposed the merger to Activision's board, which agreed to it in December 2007. The new company was to be named Activision Blizzard, and would retain its central headquarters in California. Bobby Kotick of Activision was announced as the new president and CEO, while René Penisson of Vivendi was appointed chairman.[19] The European Commission permitted the merger to take place in April 2008, approving that there weren't any antitrust issues in the merger deal.[20] On July 8, 2008, Activision announced that stockholders had agreed to merge, and the deal closed the next day for an estimated transaction amount of US$18.9 billion.[21]

Vivendi was the majority shareholder, with a 52% stake in the company.[21][22] The rest of the shares were held by institutional and private investors, and were to be left open for trading on the NASDAQ stock market for a time under NASDAQATVID, and subsequently as NASDAQATVI (Activision's stock ticker). At this point, Lévy replaced René Penisson as chairman of Activision Blizzard.[5] The merger made Activision Blizzard the parent company of Vivendi Games' former divisions.[citation needed] While Blizzard retained its autonomy and corporate leadership in the merger, other Vivendi Games divisions such as Sierra ceased operation.[23] With the merger, Kotick was quoted stating if a Sierra product did not meet Activision's requirements, they "won't likely be retained."[23] However, a number of Sierra's games such as Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon and Prototype were retained and are now published by Activision.[24]

New titles and sales records (2009–2012)[edit]

Activision Blizzard does not publish games under its central name and instead uses the Activision Publishing subsidary and its studios to publish games.[25] In early 2010, the independent studio Bungie entered into a 10-year publishing agreement with Activision Blizzard.[26][27] By the end of 2010, Activision Blizzard was the largest video games publisher in the world.[28] The 2011 release of Activision Blizzard's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 grossed $400 million in the US and UK alone in its first 24 hours, making it the biggest entertainment launch of all time.[15] It was also the third consecutive year the Call of Duty series broke the biggest launch record; 2010's Call of Duty: Black Ops grossed $360 million on day one; and 2009's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 brought in $310 million.[12] Call of Duty: Black Ops III grossed $550 million in worldwide sales during its opening weekend in 2015, making it the biggest entertainment launch of the year.[13][14]

In 2011, Activision Blizzard debuted its Skylanders franchise,[16] which led to the press crediting the company with inventing and popularizing a new toys-to-life category.[16][29][30] The first release Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure was nominated for two Toy Industry Association awards in 2011: "Game of the Year" and "Innovative Toy of the Year".[31] Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure and its sequels were released for major consoles and PC, and many were released on mobile devices as well.[16]

Split from Vivendi and growth (2013–2014)[edit]

Activision Blizzard at Gamescom 2013, where the company exhibited 2013 titles such as Call of Duty: Ghosts and Skylanders: Swap Force.

On July 25, 2013, Activision Blizzard announced the purchase of 429 million shares from owner Vivendi for $5.83 billion, dropping the shareholder from a 63% stake to 11.8% by the end of the deal in September.[32] At the conclusion of the deal, Vivendi was no longer Activision Blizzard's parent company,[33] and Activision Blizzard became an independent company as a majority of the shares became owned by the public. Bobby Kotick and Brian Kelly retained a 24.4% stake in the company overall. In addition, Kotick remained the president and CEO, with Brian Kelly taking over as chairman.[32] On October 12, 2013, shortly after approval from the Delaware Supreme Court, the company completed the buyback, along the lines of the original plan.[34] Vivendi sold half its remaining stake on May 22, 2014, reducing its ownership to 5.8%.[35] and completely exited two years later.[36]

Activision Blizzard released a new title, Destiny, on September 9, 2014. The game made over $500 million in retail sales on the first day of release, setting a record for the biggest first day launch of a new gaming franchise.[37] On November 5, 2013, the company released Call of Duty: Ghosts, which was written by screenwriter Stephen Gaghan.[38] On its first release day the game sold $1 billion into retail.[37] In 2014, Activision Blizzard was the fifth largest gaming company by revenue worldwide,[39] with total assets of US$14.746 billion and total equity estimated at US$7.513 billion.[40]

S&P 500 and new divisions (2015–present)[edit]

Activision Blizzard joined the S&P 500 on August 28, 2015, becoming one of only two companies on the list related to gaming, alongside Electronic Arts.[6] The company released the next iteration of the Skylanders franchise in September 2015, which added vehicles to the "toys to life" category.[41] On September 15, 2015, Activision and Bungie released Destiny: The Taken King, the follow up to the Destiny saga. Two days later, Sony announced that the game broke the record for the most downloaded day-one game in PlayStation history, in terms of both total players and peak online concurrency.[42]

Activision Blizzard acquired social gaming company King, creator of casual game Candy Crush Saga, for $5.9 billion in November 2015.[11]

In November 2015, Activision Blizzard announced the formation of Activision Blizzard Studios, a film production arm that would produce films and television series based on Activision Blizzard's franchises.[10] The outfit is co-headed by producer Stacey Sher and former The Walt Disney Company executive Nick van Dyk.[43][44]

In June 2017, Activision Blizzard joined the Fortune 500 becoming the third gaming company in history to make the list after Atari and Electronic Arts.[45]

In its 2018 fiscal year earnings call to shareholders in February 2019, Kotick stated that while the company had seen a record year in revenue, they would be laying off around 775 people or around 8% of their workforce in non-management divisions, "de-prioritizing initiatives that are not meeting expectations and reducing certain non-development and administrative-related costs across the business", according to Kotick.[46] Kotick stated that they plan to put more resources towards their development teams and focus on esports, Battle.net services, and the publisher's core games which include Candy Crush, Call of Duty, Overwatch, Warcraft, Diablo, and Hearthstone. Prior to this, Activision Blizzard and Bungie agreed to terminate their distribution deal with Destiny 2 as it was not bringing in expected revenue for Activision, with Bungie otherwise retaining all rights to Destiny.[46]

Corporate structure[edit]

As of February 2018, Activision Blizzard is divided into three key business segments:[47]

  • Activision Publishing, which handles the development, production, and distribution of video games from its subsidiary studios.
  • Blizzard Entertainment, which handles the development, production, and distribution of Blizzard's games. It also houses the company's esports activities including MLG and the Overwatch League.
  • King Digital Entertainment, which handles the development and distribution of its mobile games.

There are also two non-reporting segments within Activition Blizzard. Activision Blizzard Studios oversees the production of film and television entertainment based on the company's properties. Activision Blizzard Distribution provides logistical support for Activision Blizzard's distribution within Europe.

Esports initiatives[edit]

Activision Blizzard owns the Call of Duty and StarCraft franchises, both of which have been popular as esports.[8][48] On October 21, 2015, Activision Blizzard announced the upcoming establishment of a new e-sports division.[9] Named Activision Blizzard Media Networks, the division is led by sports executive Steve Bornstein and Major League Gaming (MLG) co-founder Mike Sepso, with assets from the acquisition of the now defunct IGN Pro League. Bornstein was appointed the new division's chairman.[8][48] On December 31, 2015, it was reported that "substantially all" of Major League Gaming's assets would be acquired by Activision Blizzard.[8][48] The New York Times reported that the acquisition was intended to bolster Activision Blizzard's push into e-sports, as well as its plan to develop an e-sports cable channel.[49] Reports indicated that MLG would be shuttered, and that the majority of the purchase price would go towards paying off the company's debt.[8][48] Activision Blizzard acquired MLG on January 4, 2016[49] for $46 million.[8][48]

In November 2016, Blizzard Entertainment, a subsidiary of Activision Blizzard, announced the launch of Overwatch League,[50] a professional video gaming league. The league's first season began during the second halfo of 2017 with 12 teams.[51] The league's structure is based on traditional sports structures, including recruiting traditional sports executives as team owners, such as Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, and Jeff Wilpon, COO of the New York Mets.[52]

The inaugural Overwatch Grand Finals was played at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn in August 2018 and attracted 10.8 million viewers worldwide.[53] The league hopes to have 18 teams competing during the second season in 2019, with an ultimate goal of 28 teams across the world.[54]

In 2018, Activision Blizzard signed a multi-year deal with Walt Disney to stream Overwatch League games on both ESPN and Disney XD cable channels.[55][56]

Call of Duty Endowment[edit]

Since 2009, when CEO Kotick launched Call of Duty Endowment (CODE), over 50,000 veterans have been placed in high-quality jobs. In 2013 CODE started the "Seal of Distinction" program which recognizes non-profit organizations that are successful placing veterans in good jobs. Winners receive a $30,000 grant to use in their veteran job placement activities.[57] The goal of CODE is to help 100,000 US and UK veterans find high-quality jobs by 2024.[58]

Recognition[edit]

Activision Blizzard was recognized on the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.[59][60] In 2017 the company was recognized as one of the Best Large Workplaces in Southern California.[59][61] The company was on People magazine’s 2018 Companies that Care list in 2017 and 2018.[62][63]

Products[edit]

Legal[edit]

In 2009, Business Insider reported that Worlds.com was claiming it owned the patent to "the idea of a scalable virtual world with thousands of users," with the company's CEO asserting that "he intends to sue anyone who refuses to enter into licensing negotiations - including giants such as Second Life and World of Warcraft.[64] On March 30, 2012, Worlds Inc. filed a patent infringement lawsuit in Massachusetts Federal Court alleging Activision Blizzard had infringed on two patents involving 3D virtual environments.[65] The lawsuit focused on the Call of Duty and World of Warcraft franchises,[66] and during pre-trial oral arguments, Activision Blizzard lead counsel was quoted stating "billions were at stake."[67] Activision Publishing filed a separate patent infringement lawsuit in California on October 4, 2013,[65] asserting that Worlds, Inc. was using two Activision-owned patents in its Worlds Player software.[68]

In March 2014,[69] a Boston court ruled that Activision was not required to pay Worlds.com "for using talking avatars in popular online titles like World of Warcraft," with the judge clarifying that "the patents belonging to Worlds Inc. appear invalid because the inventions they describe already appeared in public before the patents were filed." Worlds Inc. was limited to only suing Activision Blizzard for "future acts of infringement." Indeed, the Patents themselves at that time were not deemed invalid, rather the Certificate of Correction issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to cure a defect in the prosecution (filed after the lawsuit started) required that the federal lawsuit be refiled in order to take advantage of the earlier patent priority date. Worlds opted to allow the case to move forward, preserving the timeline and eliminating Activision Blizzards opportunity to directly file a USPTO Patent and Appeal Board challenge. Activision had not exercised its right to file a USPTO appeal to challenge the patents in question during the one-year statutory time period. In response, Worlds.com announced they would instead be pursuing the recent release Call of Duty: Ghosts for damages.[70]

The Worlds, Inc. case against Activision Blizzard was heard on October 3, 2014, with results still unannounced by the end of the year.[71] On June 26, 2015, the Massachusetts courts released a ruling that clarified technical terms for the lawsuit.[72]

On November 28, 2016, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) ruled claims 5 and 7 valid on US Patent 7493558, which Bungie had challenged.[73][74]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]