I worked at Blizzard for close to three years. During my time there I saw a lot of big things happen: the closing of the Console Division and shelfing of Starcraft Ghost, the launch of the first (and second!) World of Warcraft expansion ... and one that some people say is the biggest event in Blizzard's history, Vivendi Games' merger with Activision.
The merger was, of course, a controversial move; and, like any corporate maneuver, it's generated a lot of misunderstandings, misreporting, misinformation ... in general, it's been a flurry of mis-es. It's upsetting and frustrating to see so many people not understand what the merger means and, in turn, form stubborn opinions.
If you want to help curb ignorance and misunderstanding regarding what's going on with the merger, you're in luck. My former employment at Blizzard means I have a lot of information to share to set the record straight. Even if you're going to continue believing that Blizzard is somehow dipping in quality or in a bad way because of the merger, at least read what I have to say. It'll be worth it.
You can choose to believe these answers or not, that I was fed a corporate line or that I was unaware of things going on in offices on floors higher than mine. This is your prerogative. Just remember that I no longer have a vested interest in defending Blizzard or lying to back them up.
Let's first start with some basic questions.
What is Blizzard?
Blizzard is a game development studio and publisher. They create video games from start to finish and prepare them for distribution, as well as distribute the games they create.
What is Activision-Blizzard?
Activision-Blizzard is a publisher. It is the publishing company formerly known as Vivendi Games, which published studios like Blizzard and Sierra. Vivendi Games shares were converted into Activision shares, thus forming a new company of which Vivendi Universal immediately purchased 52%.
Is Blizzard's development run by Activision now?
No. Activision's development teams have not merged with or joined Blizzard's.
What was Activision before the merger?
A game publisher, and it remains as much.
What does a publisher do?
A publisher does just that -- it publishes and distributes games made by development studios. Publishers are likely to provide financial backing for development of games by their specific developers. Most studios have a single publisher that they work with for every title they develop.
Who published Blizzard's games before the merger?
Does a publisher control what a development studio makes?
In many cases? Yes. A publisher generally has certain criteria for what they want published, and are likely to instruct the developer on how and when a game will be published. This may include release dates, game content, etc. Thankfully, Blizzard still publishes its own games, not Activision, so this is moot.