Seamus Blackley, who spearheaded the development of the original Xbox and co-designed legendary PC games including System Shock, Flight Unlimited, and Jurassic Park Trespasser, says that the sale of Activision Blizzard to Microsoft will “torment” outgoing CEO Bobby Kotick. Explaining how he initially helped pitch Guitar Hero to Kotick, Blackley also describes how the Activision boss reportedly turned the idea down before purchasing the series years later, adding it to Activision Blizzard’s substantial gaming catalog, which also includes Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 and Diablo 4.
Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard was closed on Friday, October 13 following lengthy investigations from both the Federal Trade Commission and the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority. The company behind Call of Duty, Diablo 4, and several other FPS and RPG games – including World of Warcraft – is now owned by Microsoft, which says it will start launching Activision Blizzard games via Game Pass in the coming year. You can read our full Microsoft Activision Blizzard deal explainer for more details on the acquisition.
Meanwhile, Seamus Blackley, one of the key members in Microsoft’s original Xbox division, says the sale of Activision Blizzard will haunt Bobby Kotick, who will depart as CEO in 2024.
Blackley describes how he worked with Alex Rigopulos, then CEO of Guitar Hero creator Harmonix, to pitch the game to a variety of possible publishers – Activision Blizzard included. Kotick reportedly turned the game down, which was eventually picked up by rival publisher RedOctane. Years later, in 2006, Activision would buy RedOctane and the Guitar Hero series in the process.
Blackey claims that Kotick did not originally believe retailers would be interested in stocking and selling Guitar Hero, and that Kotick had previously made similar comments regarding the first Xbox console. Based on this experience, Blackley says the sale of Activision Blizzard to Microsoft is “karma.”
“When we pitched Guitar Hero to Bobby, he told us nobody would ever stock it, and turned it down (only to buy it later!),” Blackley writes. “I reminded him that he’d literally said that to me about Xbox only a few years before. He laughed. Now he’s being bought by Xbox. Karma is a b*tch.”
According to Blackley, who says that Kotick is “not a fan of mine,” the departing Activision Blizzard CEO will be “tormented” by the company’s sale to Microsoft. “Well, yeah,” Blackley says, replying to a comment regarding Kotick’s personal wealth. “But he’s already wealthy. It’s not being the boss that will torment him. Believe me.”
During a recent Activision Blizzard employee meeting, Kotick reportedly referenced the “re-emergence” of Guitar Hero. Microsoft says that Activision Blizzard games will not arrive on Game Pass in 2023, but that it intends to start adding them to the subscription service next year.
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