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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

Ina Fried, author of Login
May 4, 2021 - Technology

Exclusive: Dish takes T-Mobile complaints to Congress

Dish Network chairman Charlie Ergen speaking during a congressional hearing in June 2012.

Dish Network chairman Charlie Ergen sent a note to more than a dozen senators on Monday expressing his concerns with T-Mobile's plans to shut down an older CDMA phone network still used by millions of Dish customers.

Why it matters: Dish has said it expected to have until at least 2023 to move customers over to newer networks, while T-Mobile now plans to shut down the network at the beginning of next year.

Surprise COVID trend: Doomscrolling moved to desktop

Data: Chartbeat; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

New data from Chartbeat provided to Axios finds that working from home has pushed people to scroll deeper through article pages on desktop, and slightly less through articles on mobile.

Why it matters: The change, which coincides with the start of the pandemic, could suggest that users prefer to engage more with article pages when they have the opportunity to read them on a bigger screen.

Updated 2 hours ago - Science

NTSB probes crash that killed 10 in Alabama as storm lashes Southeast

Flash-flooding in Bloomington, Indiana, on Saturday. Photo: Jeremy Hogan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The National Transportation Safety Board announced Sunday that it's investigating a fiery multi-vehicle weekend crash in Alabama that killed 10 people, including nine children, as storms swept the Southeast.

The big picture: Saturday's crash on Interstate 65, south of Montgomery, occurred amid a tropical depression that left 13 people dead in Alabama as it triggered flash floods and spawned tornadoes that razed "dozens of homes" over the weekend, per AP.