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Microsoft Bets on Video Games: Buys Activision Blizzard for $70 billion

New York Times | | Jan 18, 2022

microsoft buys activision - Microsoft Bets on Video Games:  Buys Activision Blizzard for $70 billionMicrosoft is making a big bet on video games, and even if you’re like me and don’t really play them, it’s worth taking notice.

Microsoft said on Tuesday that it would buy Activision Blizzard, which makes video games including Candy Crush and Call of Duty. Microsoft will pay close to $70 billion for the game maker, a lot of money even for such a rich company. Activision slots into Microsoft’s other video game businesses, including the Xbox game console and video game makers like Halo and Minecraft.

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But Microsoft’s acquisition also shows that video games are not merely entertainment anymore. They have become weapons that today’s technology titans wield to try to shape our future in their preferred direction.

I’m talking about the “metaverse,” the terrible shorthand that technologists have adopted for a broad vision of a future internet that will further blur the lines between online life and real life, and between people and computers.

The metaverse is hard to define. (We could just call it the next phase of the internet, but I guess that’s too boring.) Tech companies now believe that video games are a gateway to moving faster toward whatever that more immersive internet future will be, and they are dictating what it will look like, and who the winners and losers will be.

Wanting to shape the future of the internet is one reason Facebook renamed itself Meta and has focused so much attention on its Oculus virtual reality goggles and video-game-like virtual business meetings. It’s also a reason Apple is designing face computers, and why Amazon and Google have used their cloud-computing services to make it easier for people to stream sophisticated video games over the internet.

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Video games for a long time have been a glimpse at what’s possible. Even before we camped out on Facebook and YouTube, game designers created worlds that didn’t exist but felt real. Video games were among the first consumer products that proved that people would pay for virtual things — for example, weapons, clothing or tractors in FarmVille. Gamers are already living in the metaverse, and tech companies essentially want to bring that sense of imagination to every aspect of life online, including friendships, shopping and live theater.

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