Microsoft Buys Activision Blizzard; iPhone Leads Sales, But By Less; YouTube Premium & Music-Annual Subs; Gamers vs. Crypto Fans

In huge purchase, Microsoft has picked up Activision Blizzard for a cool $68.7 billion. The Washington Post reports that this is more than 4 times what Take-Two Interactive just paid for Zynga a couple weeks ago. Activision Blizzard has had big, money-making hits like Call of Duty, Warcraft, Overwatch, and Candy Crush, but lately has been plagued with gender discrimination and sexual harassment charges. In fact, they were sued last summer by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. There is also an ongoing SEC investigation, and open labor complaints filed by employees and the Communication Workers of America union. the embattled CEO, Bobby Kotick, will stay on…despite previous calls for him to step down. He will report to Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer. The company is expected to throw off $8-9 billion a year in revenue for Microsoft. 

Apple was king of the smartphone hill again in the 4th quarter of 2021, bu lost ground. This can partially be blamed on supply issues for semiconductors, but all makers had that problem to one degree or another. According to 9to5mac.com’s recap of a Canalys report, Apple had 22% of the market, while Samsung was right on their tail at 20%. Both did better than in 2020, where Apple had 23%, and Samsung only 17%. Xiaomi was third last quarter with 12%, with Oppo at 9% and vivo at 8%. Samsung did have an advantage over Apple as they make their own chips, while Apple relies on suppliers to make their proprietary chips, such as Taiwan Semiconductor.

YouTube has done a soft rollout of an annual plan for YouTube Premium and Music Premium. 9to5google.com says if you sign up now, you can pick up a substantial discount on a plan. Instead of paying $11.99 a month for Premium, you can buy it for $107.99 for 12 months of ad-free, offline, and background playback. That will save you $36 a year. Similarly, for Music Premium, it’s $89.99 a year, which saves you $2.50 a month. The promotional prices end in a matter of days, January 23rd, so if you want in, do it now.  Note that it is a non-recurring subscription, and partial refunds are not offered. 

With more and more attention to…and investment in…cryptocurrency and NFTs (see Walmart from yesterday’s blog), there is one very vocal group that is pushing back hard. Gamers are especially energized about NFTs in games. The New York Times quotes one named Matt Kee as saying “I just hate that they keep finding ways to nickel-and-dime us in whatever way they can.”  The game enthusiasts have hit game companies hard on Twitter and Discord and other platforms, to rail against crypto based NFT assets. NFTs, or ‘non fungible tokens,’ are virtual items or goods. A few folks have dubbed NFTs ‘digital Ponzi schemes.’ Some people and companies have made serious cash selling these things, which amount to basically exclusive pictures of something real…like a pair of rare, expensive sneakers. For those types of items, you get the exclusive right to the original picture…although they are copied wholesale, and most other folks don’t care if yours is the original. To gamers, though, its a matter of the game companies jacking up prices on them…you might need to buy a weapon or item of clothing, or the like in order to better play…or win the game. The blowback is working to a degree…some makers have backed off the NFTs in their games, at least for now. 



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