By Liu Yuanju
On the night of January 18, Microsoft announced that it would buy activision Blizzard for $95 a share, a deal valued at $68.7 billion. The news immediately shook the world.
It's the biggest acquisition in gaming history and a big step for Microsoft's gaming empire.
The immediate motivation for the acquisition is that global tech giants are increasing their focus and investment in gaming. Today, Microsoft's Windows is 11 years old, and despite the rise of Android and Apple, Microsoft's operating system remains the dominant operating system in the world's most productive computers. However, with the development of technology, this absolute leading position is no longer a "monopoly" or "market power", just like those oil companies in the past, is no longer an important market player in the economy. So Microsoft has been looking for alternatives, from buying TikTok to building a gaming empire, in part as a way to anticipate that future.
Microsoft has been expanding its gaming empire through big acquisitions over the past few years. Activision Blizzard, known for its call of Duty, Diablo iii, Overwatch and World of Warcraft titles, will add to Microsoft's Xbox Game Pass and PC Game Pass library. The acquisition, which will make Microsoft the world's third-largest gaming company after Tencent and SONY, will accelerate the growth of Microsoft's gaming business in mobile, PC, console and cloud, and will provide a cornerstone for its "metasverse" business.
On a deeper level, with the rapid development of digital technology, games and social media have become deeply embedded in the history of human economy and civilization. In the trend of deep integration of virtual and reality, games and social, games and reality are further integrating, and the epidemic has accelerated this pace. As Microsoft said in a statement, three billion people now play games, engaging in interactive games, and gaming has evolved into the largest and fastest-growing form of entertainment.
An industry that affects 3 billion people, mostly young people, is necessarily an industry that affects people. As a special form of content presentation following text, image and film, games have strategic significance in terms of cultural output ability, global cultural discourse power, and even comprehensive national strength competition. A country's game industry in technological innovation and progress, the importance of business expansion is increasingly prominent. From this point of view, although Microsoft does not have this purpose, its game empire is a huge carrier of cultural output, which will play a subtle and immeasurable role in the competition between countries.
China is already in a position to try this type of output. Countries that can export culture must have strong products of their own. The so-called strong products are those that condense the most advanced technology and embody the highest industrial achievements of mankind, such as Intel CPU, Apple mobile phone, F-35 fighter jet, Tesla. When a country can export such strong products, such products will occupy the minds of consumers, together constitute a national brand image, thus supporting Nike, COACH, NBA, Hollywood, Starcraft, World of Warcraft and other culture-intensive products.
After 40 years of reform and opening-up, China has its own strong products. 5G, Huawei, space station, high speed rail, fighter jets constitute the new image of China. But with strong products, it does not mean that consumer and cultural products can automatically rise, but need to continue to build a huge global empire like Microsoft.
Unfortunately, based on the influence of traditional thinking, the development of such products has been self-restricted by the Chinese.
Many people's imagination of economic development is a grand narrative based on the sea of stars. They pursue industrialization, material production and technological progress regardless of cost, but ignore the purpose of technological progress, economic growth and national prosperity: to meet the various needs of the masses for clothing, food, entertainment and leisure. This concept, with the old morality to judge the value of the industry, so, selling water became the richest man, wrong; Real estate drives the economy, wrong; Games, not production, wrong; Take-out rider. No real stuff. No.
This kind of concept, one-sided pursuit of material production, production efficiency, not the pursuit of sustainability, not pay attention to profit, often not sustainable, need continuous transfusion, ultimately drag down the entire economy. On the contrary, those industries that focus on satisfying human needs, which seem to be just for profit, will drive the progress of the whole economy and physical technology in a sustainable way, and bring global voice to the countries that are the subject of economic and technological progress.
The hottest innovations today are the meta-universe, artificial intelligence and blockchain. The foundation of metasexes, deep learning and AI is the graphics chip. But it was games that many felt were pointless that drove the demand for graphics chips, which continued to evolve for nearly 30 years, starting with the first VOODOO chip in 1995. Today, graphics chips are finding their own new uses in scientific computing, artificial intelligence, blockchain and more. At the same time, games have fostered and promoted the rapid development of cutting-edge technologies such as game engines, high-fidelity virtual humans, and game AI. Companies such as Nvidia have begun to integrate cloud computing, AI and ray tracing capabilities based on the development of gaming technology into Omniverse products, in an attempt to create a "digital twin" that is highly consistent with the real world in both performance and physical layer, hoping to take the lead in the new generation of Internet technology revolution in which virtual and reality are integrated.
Microsoft's acquisition of Activision Blizzard is not aimed at spreading global ideas, but in fact, relying on such development, it will promote the promotion of Information technology in the United States and even the promotion of global discourse power. Therefore, in the face of international technology giants grasping such advantages, China should also face up to the significance of the internal mechanism of such development and encourage Chinese enterprises to rely on domestic development to go global and improve their international competitiveness, so as not to be pulled apart in the future. As for the rest, it's just a matter of course.
(Liu Yuanju is a researcher at Shanghai Institute of Finance and Law.)