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Microsoft tried acquiring Zynga before pursuing Activision Blizzard

Microsoft was hungry to jump into the mobile game market.

Justin Carter, Contributing Editor

June 26, 2023

2 Min Read
Logo for game developer Zynga.

During Microsoft's FTC trial on Friday, Xbox head Phil Spencer revealed the company was working to acquire mobile game developer Zynga before the Take-Two acquisition.

Speaking to Xbox's troubles with gaining a foothold in the mobile game market, he was candid in saying it currently has "no strategy to win organically in mobile gaming." Zynga would've helped rectify that problem, since mobile players and console players wanted different things out of games, and Xbox could only satisfy the latter.

Spencer admitted that Microsoft spent a good amount of time working to possibly acquire Zynga, but those plans ended once Grand Theft Auto publisher Take-Two purchased the studio last year for $12.7 billion. Prior to Microsoft's current $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard, Take-Two's was said to be the largest game company acquisition ever. 

Zynga came onto the mobile scene with Farmville in 2009, which had the benefit of releasing on Facebook back when the platform was at its strongest. That later allowed it to branch out into making games for mobile devices, and most of its work is playable on phones compared to a handful of titles on Facebook. 

The failed attempt with Zynga had Microsoft opt to go for a company that was "even bigger than what Zynga was," which eventually led to Activision Blizzard. 

Citing both ridiculously popular Candy Crush (via its subsidiary King) and Blizzard Entertainment's Diablo ImmortalSpencer called Activision "the biggest publisher of mobile content. It’s a partner we know well, given a long history of working together. [...] But most important was their portfolio and engagement they had on mobile.”

Why does Microsoft care about mobile so much?

Towards the end of last year, Xbox mentioned a greater desire to enter the mobile game market, and hoped Activision Blizzard would help it do so. Those plans included a mobile game store that would allow third-party developers to run their own app stores on the hypothetical platform. 

Both Xbox and PlayStation are gradually making steps to really get into mobile, but neither has anything that is definitively theirs to show for it yet. In Xbox's case, it's made all the more noticeable by the fact that its first-party titles are playable through so many other means, but are still effectively Xbox games. 

Third-party stores are something Google and Apple, currently the big mobile game titans, have only recently begun to allow on their respective ecosystems. And even then, that only came about when they were effectively ordered to

However, these mobile plans seem currently dependent on Microsoft being allowed to acquire Activision Blizzard and leverage its expertise in that space. It's unknown what Xbox plans to do if it's acquisition efforts are shot down completely. 

About the Author(s)

Justin Carter

Contributing Editor, GameDeveloper.com

A Kansas City, MO native, Justin Carter has written for numerous sites including IGN, Polygon, and SyFy Wire. In addition to Game Developer, his writing can be found at io9 over on Gizmodo. Don't ask him about how much gum he's had, because the answer will be more than he's willing to admit.

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