Microsoft has successfully completed its acquisition of Activision Blizzard King, marking a significant milestone in the gaming industry. The tech giant, best known for its Xbox gaming platform, announced its intention to acquire the third-party publisher for a staggering $69 billion at the beginning of 2022. The acquisition, finalised on October 13, now sees Microsoft officially taking ownership of major gaming franchises, including Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Diablo, Overwatch, Candy Crush, Crash Bandicoot, Spyro, and many more.
This acquisition was not without its challenges. Sony and the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority raised concerns about potential issues related to game exclusivity and monopolisation of cloud gaming. In response, Microsoft made commitments to ensure the continued availability of Call of Duty on PlayStation and Nintendo platforms for the next decade. Additionally, they reached an agreement with Ubisoft to provide cloud gaming rights for Activision Blizzard games.
Phil Spencer, the head of Microsoft Gaming, expressed enthusiasm for the future of the merged companies, stating, “We officially welcome Activision Blizzard and their teams to Xbox. As one team, we’ll learn, innovate, and continue to deliver on our promise to bring the joy and community of gaming to more people.”
Spencer emphasised Microsoft’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity within the gaming industry, stating, “We’ll do this in a culture that strives to empower everyone to do their best work, where all people are welcome, and is centered on our ongoing commitment to Gaming for Everyone.”
He continued back on October 13, by saying, “Today we start the work to bring beloved Activision, Blizzard, and King franchises to Game Pass and other platforms. We’ll share more about when you can expect to play in the coming months. We know you’re excited – and we are too.”
In a more recent statement, he clarified that Activision Blizzard games won’t be making their way to Xbox Game Pass anytime soon. During the latest official Xbox podcast, Spencer disclosed that there won’t be a significant influx of Activision Blizzard games into Xbox Game Pass in the coming weeks, and gamers should not expect them until 2024.
Spencer explained the delay, stating, “The regulatory process took so long… that we weren’t able to get in and work with the Activision Blizzard on that back catalog work. Now that the deal is closed, we’re starting that work, but there is work. I think the Activision Twitter [now X] handle… did put out something that talked about 2024, and I think that’s accurate. I would love it if there was some kind of secret celebration drop that’s coming in the next couple of weeks — there’s not.”
This announcement may come as a disappointment to gamers who were anticipating a swift addition of Activision Blizzard games to Game Pass. However, Spencer emphasised that this acquisition is a long-term endeavour and that the delay in game integration is a necessary part of the process. He said, “This acquisition is definitely long-term, so the fact that we’re not hitting day one with a bunch of games dropping into Game Pass is a little bit of a downer, but I’m very excited about the future. And I just want to be straight with people that that’s where we are.”
Many had expected a swift addition of older versions of Call of Duty to Xbox Game Pass, given Microsoft’s track record with its acquisitions, including the rapid integration of Bethesda games into the service. However, it seems the regulatory complexities surrounding the Activision Blizzard deal have resulted in a delay.
While regulators have given their approval for the deal, concerns remain within the gaming community and the industry at large. Gamers worry about the fate of historically PlayStation-associated franchises, such as Crash Bandicoot and Spyro, as well as the quality of future projects and the resolution of the longstanding issues related to the culture at Activision Blizzard King.
There is also broader concern about the trend of corporate consolidation in the entertainment industry and the sustainability of subscription services. However, the acquisition brings the potential for an array of new games to be added to Game Pass, and there is excitement regarding the possibility of Game Pass becoming available on PlayStation and Nintendo platforms.
It does beg the question of whether beloved classics will get a revival, especially since Crash Bandicoot and Spyro have had successful revivals over the past few years – we’re still waiting and hoping for a Crash Bash return, especially after the original game, as well as Crash Team Racing, both returned.
Despite the current wait, Xbox fans hope that Microsoft is taking its time to ensure a smooth and exciting backward compatibility drop, allowing older Activision classics to make their return to modern hardware.
While the future of the gaming industry continues to remain uncertain, this acquisition marks a significant step in the evolving landscape of gaming and entertainment. While controversial Activision Blizzard King CEO Bobby Kotick is expected to remain with the company until December 2023, popular titles like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III and Diablo IV are not yet set to join Game Pass. Further details about the integration of these franchises and games will be announced in the coming months, as the gaming community eagerly awaits the next chapter in this evolving story.
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