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Massively more on the Blizzard merger

Michael Zenke

Yesterday's news of the merger between Blizzard Entertainment and Activision caught pretty much everyone by surprise. That doesn't mean that there's nothing more to talk about, of course. Analysts and journalists have been working double-time to clarify the situation, and just 24 hours later there's an avalanche of information to work through. We'll try to help.

Let's start with the big picture. The best breakdown of the key points of this merger I found was over at GameSetWatch. The biggest key, I think, is the huge impact of World of Warcraft on the financials of parent company Vivendi: There's a reason why Blizzard have been and are left well alone - the clout that comes with this mindblowing statistic: "Blizzard Entertainment [which has "over 9.3 million subscribers" to World Of Warcraft] has projected calendar 2007 revenues of $1.1 billion, operating margins of over 40% and approximately $520 million of operating profit."

Another point stressed there, and reiterated in Blizzard's FAQ on the merger, is that Blizzard is going to maintain its independence. You won't have to worry about any crazy changes to World of Warcraft as a result of this deal. Blizzard's president Mike Morhaime sat down with 1up to talk things through, and he even went so far as to say that the company is still fairly cold on console gaming. Don't expect a slip in quality from solely Blizzard-branded products.

Calls and interviews on this weighty topic were common yesterday. Activision and Vivendi got together to hold a conference call on the announcement; though it's interesting, it only seemed to raise more questions than it answered. A much more informative call was held by N'Gai Croal of Newsweek's LevelUp blog. N'Gai had a chat with five of the principle folks that put this deal together; if you can weed through the conversational tone, the information there is most enlightening.

That takes us from the realm of the solid to the realm of analysis. What did the armchair quarterbacks have to say about this? Going back to the LevelUp blog, N'Gai and noted games journalist Geoff Keighley started a back-and-forth email conversation on the subject. The article posted today was the first in a series; expect more from that corner as the week goes on.

More corporate analysis was on the whole very positive. Vivendi shares rose in the wake of the announcement; analysts further saw the potential for even more mergers in the coming years. Games industry rumour-monger Surfer Girl notes a few of those possible merger candidates.

For non-Massive gaming fans there is some notable news here as well; Guitar Hero may be coming to Asia as result of this deal, for example, and notes from the merger confirmed that a Call of Duty V is already in the planning stages.

We'll do everything we can to keep you up to date as more details emerge, and you can expect a full breakdown on this issue in the new Joystiq Roundtable podcast.

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