Microsoft has announced plans to buy the developer who brought Call of Duty and Candy Crush to gamers around the world.

The software giant owned by billionaire Bill Gates has confirmed it will acquire Activision Blizzard in an all cash transaction valued at $68.7 billion.

The move will make Microsoft, based in Redmond, Washington, the third-largest gaming company by revenue in the world behind Tencent and Sony.

The takeover means the company will acquire some of the iconic gaming franchises like “Warcraft”, “Diablo”, “Overwatch,” “Call of Duty” and “Candy Crush”, as well as global eSports activities through Major League Gaming.

The company has studios around the world with nearly 10,000 employees.

Bobby Kotick will remain as CEO of Activision Blizzard, and he and the team will report to Phil Spencer, CEO, Microsoft Gaming, once the deal is complete.

Satya Nadella, chairman and CEO of Microsoft, said: “Gaming is the most dynamic and exciting category in entertainment across all platforms today and will play a key role in the development of metaverse platforms.

“We’re investing deeply in world-class content, community and the cloud to usher in a new era of gaming that puts players and creators first and makes gaming safe, inclusive and accessible to all.

Mr Spencer added: “Players everywhere love Activision Blizzard games, and we believe the creative teams have their best work in front of them.

“Together we will build a future where people can play the games they want, virtually anywhere they want.”

Mobile is now the largest gaming platform

Mr Kotick said: “For more than 30 years our incredibly talented teams have created some of the most successful games.

“The combination of Activision Blizzard’s world-class talent and extraordinary franchises with Microsoft’s technology, distribution, access to talent, ambitious vision and shared commitment to gaming and inclusion will help ensure our continued success in an increasingly competitive industry.”

Nearly 95 per cent of gamers now play on mobile, and the merger means players can enjoy games like Halo and Warcraft in almost any location.

Microsoft plans to launch Activision Blizzard games into its Game Pass, which now has more than 25 million subscribers.

Activision Blizzard, based in Santa Monica, California, has more than 400 million monthly players in 190 countries and once the deal is closed, Microsoft will have 30 internal game development studios.

The deal is expect to close at the end of the fiscal year in 2023 and has been approved by the boards of directors of both Microsoft and Activision Blizzard.

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