With Microsoft’s near-$70 billion buyout of Activision Blizzard, all bets are basically off the table. While you could explain away Bethesda’s acquisition as an anomaly – it was a struggling publisher that was privately owned – it’s clear that we’re now waist-deep in an industry consolidation era. Other publishers will be bought, it’s just a question of when.
The Financial Times (paywall) tips giant Electronic Arts to be next, although given its focus on multiformat sports franchises – and its precarious position with the FIFA license – a suitor is harder to determine. As we’ve seen with MLB The Show 21, it’s hard to keep these franchises exclusive, as typically rights agreements hinge on the games being as widely available as possible.
EA owns a number of juggernaut brands outside of the sports sector, including The Sims and Apex Legends. However, while it will continue to make Star Wars games, that license has now been shared around with other third-parties, including Ubisoft. The Financial Times hypothesises that the likes of Apple, Amazon, Google, and even Netflix could be potential suitors.
With an enterprise value of $38 billion, it’s highly unlikely we’d ever see Sony tabling a bid, although the Financial Times does argue that the Japanese giant may be “on the lookout to build up its portfolio of exclusive games”. It seems unrealistic to us: the real worry here is that the other major tech firms get spooked by Microsoft’s big money moves, and begin to gobble up what’s left.