Vivendi owns 61 percent of Activision Blizzard, amounting to a grand total of an $8.1 billion investment in what might be the single greatest conglomerate of developers in the United States, giving EA a run for their money. Between the Call of Duty franchise and Blizzard’s big three—Diablo, StarCraft and, of course, the WoW-spawning Warcraft mythos—the company looks, from the outside, like a license to print money.
Yet here’s Vivendi, trying to sell them. Vivendi has been informed that it may have its debt ratings threatened if it doesn’t liberate itself from some of its liabilities. Activision Blizzard a liability?
Well, let’s not forget that, in recent years, Activision has successfully killed off the Guitar Hero franchise (and its DJ Hero spin-off), ground Tony Hawk’s name into the dirt, gotten involved in tremendous legal mudslinging with both competitor EA and former Infinity Ward employees and Call of Duty scions Jason West and Vince Zampella (a conflict in which West and Zampella, as well as EA, came out as the “good guys” in the court of public opinion).
Blizzard, meanwhile, has been losing subscribers to its tremendous WoW fanbase, and frustrated players of Diablo III with a less-than-stellar launch, connection hiccups to this day and a difficulty mode that is balanced more around either how long you’re willing to grind gear or how much you’re willing to spend (in real cash, no less) to cut out the grind.
Is this a gaming industry crash waiting to happen? Hopefully not, but this is certainly a sign to start watching it carefully.
By Shelby Reiches