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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

"Alan Wake Remastered" highlights gaming's preservation challenges

Screenshot: Remedy Entertainment

Next month’s release of “Alan Wake Remastered” highlights one of the most frustrating things about gaming: new games age quickly, and, before you know it, they become hard to access or play.

Why it matters: Games have such a significant preservation problem that even an acclaimed interactive thriller like “Alan Wake,” released a mere 11 years ago, needs an expensive salvage effort to bring it to a large audience today.

CCP releases two jailed Canadians after Huawei CFO deal with DOJ

Photo: Sheldon Cooper/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Two Canadians imprisoned by the Chinese government for over 1,000 days have been released and are expected to arrive in Canada on Saturday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday.

Why it matters: Their release comes hours after Huawei Technologies CFO Meng Wanzhou reached a deal with the U.S. Department of Justice that resolves the criminal charges against her and could pave the way for her to return to China.

Updated 16 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Arizona GOP's private recount of 2020 election confirms Biden's win

Contractors working on behalf of the GOP examine and recount 2020 ballots at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix in May. Photo: Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images

In an odd coda to the 2020 election, private contractors conducting a GOP-commissioned recount in Arizona confirmed President Biden’s win in Maricopa County.

Why it matters: The unofficial, party-driven recount has been heavily covered on cable news as part of former President Trump's continued effort to sow doubt about the election result.