Companies generally tend to join together rather than grow apart. Mergers and acquisitions are far, far more common than a company actually splitting up into smaller pieces. There are exceptions everywhere, of course, but for every example like Bungie splitting away from Microsoft, there are dozens more about developers being gobbled up by a publisher. Which is one reason today's news about Activision Blizzard is so startling: in a $8.2 billion deal, the company's management has bought its freedom from the huge French company Vivendi. As of today, Activision Blizzard is an independent company.
The New York Times has plenty of details on the financial aspects of the deal, in which Vivendi will retain a 12% ownership stake in Activision Blizzard. Activision Blizzard will retain its current leadership of Bobby Kotick (CEO) and Brian Kelly (chairman). Kotick, for his part, seems optimistic about the future, as he probably should be, considering he was likely the driving force behind the split:
“We should emerge even stronger,” he said. “The transactions announced today will allow us to take advantage of attractive financing markets while still retaining more than $3 billion cash on hand to preserve financial stability.”
It's difficult to tell what this means for the future of Activision Blizzard, but at a first glance, it's probably best to guess "not much," at least from a consumer perspective. Without the oversight and red tape of a megacorporation like Vivendi above it, it's tempting to imagine that Activision Blizzard will be able to take more risks and experiment more when it comes to their game brands, but let's not kid ourselves: even without Vivendi looking over their shoulders, Activision Blizzard is still a gargantuan gaming entity. There's still going to be a Call of Duty every year, World of Warcraft will still remain the biggest MMO on the market for the foreseeable future, and the company will likely still try to make the safest bets on its megafranchises as we head into a new console generation. But it'll be interesting to see if being independent will encourage them to behave any differently than they have in the past.