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Microsoft Buys Activision Blizzard. (And What It Means for Golf.)

Published: January 21, 2022

Author: Tom Leonard

Insights from the Experts: Growth Labs Series with Tom Leonard, Senior Director of Emerging Media

The foundation is laid for a professional metaverse.

This morning I was riding my bike through the virtual world of Watopia in Zwift, checking to see if I had any friends online, and waving to those cycling alongside me I didn’t know from around the (real) world. I couldn’t help but be struck by two things: an article I read back in 2015 about cycling being the new golf for young professionals and Microsoft’s recent purchase of Activision Blizzard. That acquisition now puts one of the premier video game companies, a proven hardware maker, and the largest professional social network under a single roof. There has been a lot of talk about the future of work in the metaverse and I think the first step is now clear: gaming.

Not too long ago, gaming was associated with junk food and parents’ basements. Today though, gaming is no longer taboo. We even have a vibrant gaming Slack channel here at 3Q Digital – and no, it isn’t just a place for the summer interns to hang out, it even has active participation from our senior leaders! Video games span generations and while the heaviest usage does skew young, don’t discount the influence of Gen Z, which has already started entering the workforce. Couple growing up with emerging online gaming and their first two years in the workforce being remote due to COVID, and it’s very easy to see why casually talking about work over a round of FIFA or Fortnite is no different than a pre-COVID happy hour (and significantly more appealing than another attempt to replicate said happy hours over Zoom).

Where consumers go, advertisers follow.

We’re going to see big opportunities for brands to play in this space. Many have already been investing in-game and that will only amplify as more and more see the opportunity to reach consumers. Just think about all of the data available via LinkedIn, the ad tech pipes of Xandr, and the community-focused games like Minecraft and World of Warcraft (some of the earliest examples of socialization and commerce). With all of these purchases, Microsoft is positioning itself to be a serious contender – not only the consumer metaverse, but also the professional metaverse. And what may seem like a gimmicky opportunity for consumer brands to dabble in a new space (it’s no gimmick) may just be B2B advertisers’ new frontier. It won’t (and shouldn’t) look and feel like the advertising of today, but this trend toward gaming can’t be ignored or written off. All brands, whether B2C or B2B, are B2P (business to person) and increasingly those people are spending time in games. The future versions of the metaverse and its precursor of today, gaming, provide a new opportunity to connect with consumers in a way that modern digital advertising has struggled to.

Time will tell if we will see an emergence of ‘one metaverse to rule them all’ and if Microsoft can best Meta and Apple, who each come to the table with a billion users of their respective software and hardware. The reality is, business will always be conducted in part outside of the office. What was once reserved for the golf course will make its way into the metaverse, and Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard shows us a glimpse of what could be the first viable realization of this vision. Sadly, my COD skills resemble my golf game: lacking.

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