The Irvine-based video game developer Blizzard Activision has been acquired by software giant Microsoft for more than $68 billion, both companies announced on Tuesday, Jan. 18. A statement released Tuesday revealed that the all-cash transaction will make Microsoft one of the top five largest gaming companies in terms of revenue.

In a tweet, Blizzard, creator of Diablo, Overwatch and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, shared the news with their followers, linking to an email from current CEO Bobby Kotick to Blizzard employees. In Kotick’s letter, the CEO defined the moment as, “an incredibly exciting day,” and reassured fans that the video game developer would continue to provide an extraordinary gaming experience, only now as part of the Microsoft universe.

“In considering possible partners, all roads ultimately lead to Microsoft,” Kotick said. “Like us, they have been making games for a long time. Microsoft has already distributed games to hundreds of millions of the world’s computers and computing devices and has technologies and innovation that will support the next generation of games.”

Kotick will continue in his role of CEO for Activision Blizzard, according to Microsoft, and once the deal is finalized in June 2023, the Irvine-based creator of World of Warcraft will begin reporting to Mircosoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer.

Microsoft, which was founded by Bill Gates in 1974, debuted the XBOX in 2001 and looks to focus on developing mobile and metaverse-based gaming in the future. Satya Nadella, chairman and CEO of Microsoft, said the company is preparing to “usher in a new era of gaming.”

“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,” Nadella said. “We’re investing deeply in world-class content, community and the cloud to usher in a new era of gaming that puts players and creators first and makes gaming safe, inclusive and accessible to all.”

News of the Microsoft Blizzard Activision merger comes just months after a Blizzard Activision employee became the first to speak publicly about an unfair work environment, where she experienced sexual harassment.

In July, dozens of Blizzard Activision employees participated in an organized walkout after thousands of employees signed an open letter calling for equality across the board, after a statement from Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick failed to satisfy the previous demands for equality within the company, prompting an additional response from Blizzard employees.