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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Activision Blizzard is going bigger than ever on mobile, declaring that the gaming giant behind "Call of Duty" and "World of Warcraft" wants a mobile game for every one of its franchises.

Why it matters: Much as some PC and console gamers may grumble, mobile gaming exerts a gravitational pull that is tugging the rest of the gaming industry toward it.

  • "Mobile is the ultimate driver of reach, with almost 3 billion smartphones worldwide," Activision COO Daniel Alegre told investors.

Activision Blizzard is hiring hundreds more mobile developers and posting big player numbers:

  • "Call of Duty Mobile," released in 2019, seems to be the spark. It's reached 500 million downloads worldwide.

More company franchises are going to mobile: The Blizzard division's "Diablo" franchise in late 2021, then "a number of Warcraft mobile titles" and "several unannounced initiatives," Alegre said.

  • This supplements mobile division King, which released a "Crash Bandicoot" mobile spin-off in March to some 30 million downloads.

By the numbers: Activision Blizzard's "mobile and ancillary" revenue January–March of this year was $734 million, compared to $570 million in the same period in 2020.

  • Almost none of that came from the company's PC-centric division Blizzard, which is now commissioned to make premium games and mobile releases.

Between the lines: Mobile gaming is controversial among more hardcore PC and console gamers because of quality issues.

There's a gatekeeping issue, too, that often reveals a class and cultural divide between those for whom games have traditionally been made and the rest of the world.

  • Yet for many players worldwide, mobile is the only affordable way to play video games.
Credit: Blizzard

Flashback: At 2018's BlizzCon, Blizzard developers promoted the upcoming mobile-only game in the traditionally PC-based "Diablo" franchise, and the traditionally supportive crowd, who wanted a big-time sequel, booed.

  • "Do you guys not have phones?" an incredulous Blizzard developer replied.
  • Three years later, Blizzard promotes "Diablo Immortal" as one of three upcoming franchise releases, the others on PC and/or consoles.

The bottom line: It's not just Activision Blizzard.

  • Rival EA just completed its $2.1 billion purchase of Glu Mobile.
  • Microsoft has been expanding its Xbox offerings to mobile via streaming technology.
  • In April, Sony listed a job opening for a head of mobile.
  • And Nintendo recently announced another attempt at mobile success via a partnership with "Pokémon Go" maker Niantic.

Go deeper

Xbox Game Pass subscriptions miss Microsoft’s target

Xbox Game Pass. Photo: Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Subscriber growth for Microsoft’s signature gaming service, Xbox Game Pass, was slower than the company hoped for in the past year, according to a new financial filing.

Why it matters: Xbox Game Pass is often touted as the best deal in gaming and its subscriber count is a shorthand measure of Microsoft’s gaming success.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Virginia attorney general fires Jan. 6 investigator from university post

McIntire Amphitheater at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia. Photo: Robert Knopes/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The lead investigator for the Jan. 6 House select committee investigating the Capitol riot has been fired from his position as the University of Virginia's counsel by the state's new Republican attorney general, per the Washington Post.

Why it matters: Democrats say the removal of Tim Heaphy from his post after some three years while he's on leave from the university to investigate the insurrection is likely "retribution" for the House probe — an accusation strongly denied by the office of state Attorney General Jason Miyares (R).

5 hours ago - World

Taiwan's military scrambles jets after detecting 39 Chinese warplanes

J-20 stealth fighter jets in Zhuhai in the Guangdong Province of China last year. Photo: Chen Jimin/China News Service via Getty Images

Taiwan's defense force said 39 Chinese warplanes flew into its Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) on Sunday.

Why it matters: The largest Chinese air force incursion into the zone since October came a day after the U.S. and Japanese navies conducted a joint exercise in the Philippine Sea.