Report: Activision Blizzard retains top talent

<em>Variety</em> reports publishing giant has signed "key folks" from Blizzard Entertainment, Infinity Ward, and Neversoft to new long-term deals; announces two-for-one stock split.

Yesterday, Vivendi SA and Activision Inc. put the final touches on the largest merger in gaming-industry history to create publishing powerhouse Activision Blizzard. On paper, the merger lumps a number of top development houses under one roof, including World of Warcraft dungeon masters Blizzard Entertainment, Call of Duty generals Infinity Ward, and Guitar Hero shredders Neversoft.

However, as ever-quotable Wedbush Morgan Securities analyst Michael Pachter noted in his analysis of EA's ongoing advances to acquire Take-Two Interactive, many of the top talents in the industry likely have change-of-control clauses in their contracts that would let them jump ship if ownership of the business changes hands. That being the case, it wasn't a certainty that the newly formed Activision Blizzard would retain its stable of highly prized developers.

However, that fear can now be assuaged, given that Variety reports today that "top execs" from all three aforementioned studios have signed long-term contract extensions with Activision Blizzard. No specific individuals were named as part of the report, but Variety confirmed with Activision Blizzard president and CEO Bobby Kotick that "key folks" from both Infinity Ward and Neversoft have extended their contracts for an undisclosed period of time.

As for Blizzard Entertainment, Kotick told Variety, "We realized it would be impossible to compete [with 'World of Warcraft'] and so ultimately my only issue was making sure they were committed for at least five years. They are committed to the franchise in a way we rarely see, since it's something they created from scratch and is their life and livelihood. It didn't take a lot to get them to make that commitment."

In further Activision Blizzard news, the publishing giant said today that its board had approved a two-for-one stock split. The split will go into effect shortly after the $4 billion tender offer to current shareholders to buy back outstanding shares at $27.50 per share. However, given that shares of Activision Blizzard are currently well above the offer initially agreed on when the business combination was announced in December, it is unlikely that the company will find many takers on its offer.

Commenting on the split, Kotick said in a statement, "This action reflects our strong financial position and our confidence in the opportunities for further growth. We believe the stock split will lead to wider ownership by making our stock accessible to a broader base of investors."

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Discussion

53 comments
Azuki
Azuki

I love this, its basically just more proof that blizz does things right and other pc devs should take notice. You don't need the 'latest greatest' tech to deliver a quality product. What you need is smart design teams of highly talented people willing to work within constraints so that it forces there creativity AND generates products that VASTLY more people can experience. Between blizzard and the wii is this not proof that the average consumer doesn't care at all about 'having the best visuals' or 'the highest picture quality'. Want more proof? look at youtube, the damn thing is a phenomenon and the videos are all ridiculously low quality. Every blizzard game has been pure brilliance and every sequel has been -that- much better. I've played and gotten addicted to every single game they've produced and frankly I couldn't care less if all they did was update wow and churn out sequels for diablo and starcraft, the franchises are brilliant and after over 2 n half years of playing wow I am utterly convinced no dev will ever succeed its overall quality levels except blizz themself.

markharris31
markharris31

So say to yourself, "How can a company produce only 3 games and still have massive sales and profits?" The answer is this: quality. I find it interesting that people on these boards will decry the "megapublishers" for churning out high quantities of mediocre products and then turn around and bash Blizzard for making a few ultra high quality products. Which do you want? Unless there is a huge influx of top quality talent into the industry then there isn't room for quality AND quantity. Blizzard has 3 fantastic IPs that they are currently developing (Warcraft, Starcraft, Diablo), as well as other quality IPs that they could develop (Lost Vikings, et al). All of their recent games have been commercial and critical successes, so why all the hate? SC2 and D3 look fantastic, and WoW is still kicking. Personally I got bored with it after a while, but it's hard to argue with 10 million subs. I find it hard to fault a company for creating high quality games, especially with the rash of absolute crap that's been coming out lately.

the-bat-child
the-bat-child

@yomama15 If you want to blatantly b***h at games at least try to strengthen your retarded comments with facts to back them up.

simjn61
simjn61

@GIF Is this the same Blizzard who have produced three games and then just churned out sequels and expansions packs. Not exactly the pioneers of originality that you seem to portray them as. I'm sure Activision will leave them to follow the same formula that made them successful in the first place, so you can safely expect more expansions for WoW, Starcraft 2, Diablo 3 and the obligatory expansion to follow.

GIF
GIF

This is non news worthy. Blizzard is now a shadow run by corporate interests. Expect them to remain stagnant and focus on profits. It's a known fact super publishers like EA have ......well churned out lots of mediocre titles. It's too many cooks in the kitchen syndrome.

yomama15
yomama15

Boo!!! WOW sucks and is over-rated!!! Boo!!! COH is so "f-in" better!!!

Nintendo_Ownes7
Nintendo_Ownes7

Hopefully they get Raven Software or Infinity Ward to make Starcraft Ghost Preferably Raven Software because I like their games but you couldn't go wrong with either.

Vincent9mm
Vincent9mm

Awesome to see a few people still are craving SC:Ghost, hopefully this merger helps get that project back into the spotlight. I'd also like to see a new Lost Vikings and Blackthorn though Ghost tops my Blizzard wish list. Though with W.o.W.: Wrath, Diablo 3, and SC 2 almost hitting store shelves I think it may be a minute before more projects come to light.

GodsBusy
GodsBusy

@ THORINATOR First, Blizzard has stated time and again that WoW will never be on consoles . . . but if it were, you can bet that there would be a monthly fee. Just like when Age of Conan comes out for 360: monthly fee. Or FFXI on PS2 and 360: monthly fee. DC Universe will have a monthly fee. Put simply if it's an MMO, and it doesn't have a monthly fee, and it isn't Guild Wars, then it sucks. You get what you pay for.

VolcanicDemon
VolcanicDemon

Now we will probably see True Crime Streets of Azeroth

THORINATOR
THORINATOR

It would be cool if games like WOW arrived on the consoles! Activision Blizzard have alot of expierience between them...so i hope this merger will be great! Does this mean that Blizzard will now develop titles for PS3 & 360, I hope so! The only thing i would be worried about is the Price that Blizzard charge people to play online on the PC. Hope this never happens for future releases on PS3 & 360...we pay enough for games as it is without paying monthly subscription fees! Anyway, can't wait to see what this new company has to offer!

SiNoNaX
SiNoNaX

@Slammer612 Incorrect. The reason Activision Blizzard is not at E3 is because of legal issues due to the merger that popped up about 1 month ago. Causing Activision Blizzard to agree on not attending. It was over the buying of tenders. I read the article about 3 weeks ago on google finance to lazy to fish it out for you at the moment.

martymcfly12
martymcfly12

This is a great big move. I hope that not to soon, an MMOFPS Call of Duty might be released. Since Blizzard made WoW, a MMORPG game, I hope that with the combination of Blizzard and Infinty Ward, they would make an MMOFPS title (I also hope it is named Call of Duty), for VU or Activision.

Pete5506
Pete5506

I hope this dose not go into something bad

PhireStorm007
PhireStorm007

Maybe with the new resources VU/Activision can get a new publisher to make a Homeworld 3? *sigh* man, I'm dieing for a sequel Nevermind that, I forgot THQ purchased the Homeworld rights not too long ago.

akazergling2
akazergling2

I'm more hoping that EA crases and burns, more than they get their act together. LONG LIVE E&B!!

zeldafan1234
zeldafan1234

hey if these guys can scare ea and make ea get their act together than im all for what this companys got as long as they dont become an ea.

godzillavskong
godzillavskong

Smart move Activision. Especially with Infinity Wards recent success. Does anyone know which publisher picked up that head developer from Tecmo? I wish M$ could have snagged him up.

Gruug
Gruug

Like to see a competitor to side against EA....make that strong competitor. Only problem I see with this is that the bigger companies become the less willing they are to take risks. Therefore, will we see more of the same IP's over and over and over again. Sometimes, something new is good!

mikewalsh69
mikewalsh69

all this merger means is that instead of two companies making good money, one company will make great money. it'll also improve games as dev's will be able to share some code with each other. it's what goes on with the sony dev's. insomniac gave some code to gg. sorry for bringing something sony related into the thread. but i needed an example

HauntedOne
HauntedOne

Sigh... Wait a few years, experience a few titles, then make a few judgments. Sure, it seems like Blizzard might have a "carte blanche" when it comes to development, but I wouldn't count on it. They're probably in the same boat as every other group of developers when it comes to new developments. If that that doesn't occur right away, it'll likely occur after some time. It might also amount to no change for us consumers in the long run. It's all a question of business direction now. Man, things seemed so much simpler 15 years ago,.

JimmyJimJim
JimmyJimJim

Aslong as this doesn't rush blizzard games then this company is set to rock EA for all it's got.

BladeMaster75
BladeMaster75

Activision worries me, I think they're rushing Blizzard's releases.

combatsoldier
combatsoldier

dont worry guys blizzard wont let no body mess with them.

Mp5slipknot
Mp5slipknot

This is a bit unnerving but at least it may give EA some more serious competition.

Slammer612
Slammer612

@technowiz999 Few troubles with the arguement. The reason they are ducking out of E3 is because E3 shot themselves in the foot last year and toned it down, and honestly isn't worth the money spent now because it doesnt get the hype that it once did, and I agree with them, and they knew this is a risk they were getting into when removing all the glamour of E3. From my understanding on the RB/GH situation it is more that they left on bad terms which is the main reason with the guitar crossover issues for the ps3. @bigpimppapa Obviously all 15 dollars a month is going right to them. They dont have to pay for system upgrades, Patching in new content, paying the people that are working daily at Blizz to keep WoW up, etc etc. Here is the big confusion I think you have Microsoft Xbox live the only thing they update is the interface, they dont really do much more then that. All the xbox live games you pay a premium to get, you don't have to pay as many people to keep developing updates on the interface like you do with WoW where you have quite a big team the is constantly working on the project.

endocrine
endocrine

Too bad this message did not come out before blizzard north got axed 2 years ago...

bigpimppapa
bigpimppapa

Blizzard charges $15.00 a month that is $180.00 per year. Microsoft charges for a year $50.00. That $180.00 is for WOW only tell me about price gouging

combatsoldier
combatsoldier

I am glad that blizzard is still on top. I told you guys not to worry about blizzard. they are to strong of a force to be messed with. They are like the darth vader or the equivalent of a super sayain 4 on the gaming community scale.

halomonkey1_3_5
halomonkey1_3_5

@slammer612 EA only rushes out games that are sequels. I don't see them rushing on Spore and new things, but I can garunteee you they are already half way through a Spore expansion. Blizzard is a genius company yes, but Activision is not much to speak of. They may not have the buying out tactics of EA, but they make versions of other entertainment programs to try to crush smaller companies. Thats pretty dirty in itself. (I'm also talking of their new parent company Vivendi). Also EA games are not mediocre at best, if you look at EA reviews they always get at least par ratings and many get high ratings by websites. They don't bribe reviewers so its not that, they actually make quality games but are shrouded by their reputation. Many of their games suck too, but thats to be expected from large companies. The movie industry expects one successful movie in about every 4 and the game industry has similar numbers. Its just they have always been the huge superpower in games they are the center of everyones attention. Also, the cockiness of this new merger is already showing itself. They know they are the big dogs now so they skip events like ESA and such and create their own. Anyone who knows anything about politics knows thats a slap in the face to companies that do show and to the ESA. One final thing, EA buys out companies that don't want to be bought out because thats the business world. Activision has done the same thing (Red Octane, Raven Software, They also attempted to buy Blizzard previously) Vivendi also aggressively takes over non gaming companies constantly (Neuf Cegetel, Oger Telecom, Sanctuary Group, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., and many more) Activision are also whiney little babies about competition. They blame Harmonix for copying their precious GH with RB even though Harmonix and MTV made GH1and most of 2 the bolded just shows that you have no idea what your talking about

baal46
baal46

No sir, I don't like it. The idea of mixing my Blizzard with my Activision gives me that queezy pit-of-my-stomach feeling.

HOMIE_G64
HOMIE_G64

LOL technowiz999. Looked back into the past lately (if you've lived that long)? Back then, games were actually good, and the games that got good ratings deserved good ratings. These days, games are being mass produced by companies like EA who pay reviewers to give them good ratings. The critics that do not take the bribe have no good games to review them against, and so must give them a good score. EA always rushes the games. Most games we get from EA are half-baked because it doesn't give developers (if it was developed by another company) enough time or money to make a good game. EA just wants gamer's money and is past caring. The only reason why they still operate is because of poeple like you, who still put faith in a company that has sunken to the bottom of the ocean.

technowiz999
technowiz999

@slammer612 EA only rushes out games that are sequels. I don't see them rushing on Spore and new things, but I can garunteee you they are already half way through a Spore expansion. Blizzard is a genius company yes, but Activision is not much to speak of. They may not have the buying out tactics of EA, but they make versions of other entertainment programs to try to crush smaller companies. Thats pretty dirty in itself. (I'm also talking of their new parent company Vivendi). Also EA games are not mediocre at best, if you look at EA reviews they always get at least par ratings and many get high ratings by websites. They don't bribe reviewers so its not that, they actually make quality games but are shrouded by their reputation. Many of their games suck too, but thats to be expected from large companies. The movie industry expects one successful movie in about every 4 and the game industry has similar numbers. Its just they have always been the huge superpower in games they are the center of everyones attention. Also, the cockiness of this new merger is already showing itself. They know they are the big dogs now so they skip events like ESA and such and create their own. Anyone who knows anything about politics knows thats a slap in the face to companies that do show and to the ESA. One final thing, EA buys out companies that don't want to be bought out because thats the business world. Activision has done the same thing (Red Octane, Raven Software, They also attempted to buy Blizzard previously) Vivendi also aggressively takes over non gaming companies constantly (Neuf Cegetel, Oger Telecom, Sanctuary Group, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., and many more) Activision are also whiney little babies about competition. They blame Harmonix for copying their precious GH with RB even though Harmonix and MTV made GH1and most of 2. Actiblizz isn't a god send so don't say they are any better then EA.

2bitSmOkEy
2bitSmOkEy

blizzard is blizzard. they have yet to make a game that didn't flat out revolutionize w/e genre they were working with. everything they do is pure gold and i don't think anything will ever change that. you can tell they care to much to strive for anything less than perfection. what about activision? who cares....

Slammer612
Slammer612

@technowiz999 Except that EA always overly rushes products and majority games being mediocre at best, not to mention buying out companies that dont want to be part of EA. These companies wanted to merge thats the differ. Blizz is yet to fail on under delivering a game. (some might not like WoW but cant argue of its popularity and the opinions of other that constanlty play their games) Activision has made a lot of solid games, and even though I prefer rockband, just like WoW I cant argue with its popularity and how many people like the game (I still like it but like I said my preference is with RB) So yes I dont think it will be EA2

technowiz999
technowiz999

Welcome to EA2, please overpay at the next window for a very crappy game. They are already pumping out GH expansion after expansion (or I guess extension) just like EA, they are trying to get as much money as possible from stockholders directly now, and the "talent" that is sticking around really isn't that highly noted and for good reason.

alcangel_pa
alcangel_pa

this is a lame idea but is the people like it soviet

jasonbarbour
jasonbarbour

YES (Starcraft Ghost) The starcraft Universe would be perfect for a sci-fi horror FPS! Though Halo sort of copied the story from starcraft so FPS people who havent played starcraft would think it was the other way round... that is if SC ghost kept starcrafts story...They could come up with something new though rather than just put the player as a ghost into the old story ... who knows, I just hope they make the game as starcraft is one of my favorit franchises and I was really dissapointed when they canceled the title originally.

rock_solid
rock_solid

i'm usually not too optimistic about mergers....but we'll see....

Gifted_One
Gifted_One

Lets hope for a Stacraft: Ghost. Btw, they keep saying WoW. What about Starcraft period? Give that franchise the honor it deserves.

Twiztid-Maddox
Twiztid-Maddox

I keep hearing all this stuff about Sierra merging with Activision, and I know Blizzard is really the most important part of Sierra... but my thoughts are, with Activision merging with Sierra, is it somehow possible for Starcraft: Ghost to come out now on current next gen systems?

ShirkDawg
ShirkDawg

I think it'd be better if they were separate companies, but Activision isn't all that bad. I think the best merger in video game history though was Square Electronic Arts. I'm not much of a fan of EA; in fact I don't like a lot of their practices, but we never would have seen many of Square's greatest Playstation games if it weren't for that company. Too bad Square canned a bunch of people after the FF movie failed and merged with Enix; that was the downfall of the once great company.

wiifan001
wiifan001

Whatever. Just send me Call of Duty 5 and Guitar Hero: World Tour!

Packfan104L4
Packfan104L4

Now we get to see a World of Warcraft based Guitar Hero. Can you say "Lets stretch the moneymakers as far as we can go"?