Budge over a bit Zuckerberg, Microsoft appears to be making a move into the metaverse. And it’s a big one, which brings Activision Blizzard, the publishers of Call of Duty, into the fold.

The publisher of Minecraft (that’s Microsoft) has reportedly made an all-cash bid (US$95 per share) valued at US$69.7 billion for gaming titan Activision Blizzard, which will make Microsoft the the world’s third-largest gaming company (behind Tencent and Sony).

Significantly, it’s Microsoft’s biggest ever acquisition. And, almost inevitably, it’s being framed as a metaverse play.

Microsoft emphasised in an announcement that the acquisition will “accelerate the growth in Microsoft’s gaming business across mobile, PC, console and cloud and will provide building blocks for the metaverse”.

Chairman and CEO Satya Nadella added, “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.”

In addition to the mega-popular Call of Duty franchise, Activision Blizzard has an impressive array of major titles in its stable, including Warcraft, Overwatch, Candy Crush, Diablo and Crash Bandicoot. It also has franchised leagues within esports (with Overwatch and Call of Duty).

As part of the acquisition, Microsoft stated that Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick will remain at the helm until the deal closes, with Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer taking over at that point.

It’s unclear at this stage whether Microsoft’s metaverse move will incorporate the introduction of NFTs (non-fungible tokens) into its gaming universe, although there is heavy speculation it will dip its toe in at the very least.

According to a Decrypt article, Games publishing rival Ubisoft confirmed recently that it intends to continue its NFT-related plans through its Ubisoft Quartz platform, despite some backlash and negativity from “traditional” gamers about the need for and value of NFTs.

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reported last week that 100 employees from Microsoft’s augmented reality team have moved on over the past year to join Meta (the parent company of Facebook).