What Microsoft Acquisition of Activision Blizzard Means for Call of Duty and More

What Microsoft Acquisition of Activision Blizzard Means for the Gamer

UPDATE 02/09/2022: The story goes deeper. Last month, after the news of Microsoft's acquisition of Activision Blizzard, we predicted that series like Call of Duty will remain on other platforms. Two days later, Phil Spencer reiterated this in a tweet. However, there was a lot of doubt regarding the wording of the tweet, mainly pointing out that Phil Spencer states intent but doesn't actually promise it. Today, we have our last and definitive update on this matter. A new blog post on the official Microsoft page confirms the following:

First, some commentators have asked whether we will continue to make popular content like Activision’s Call of Duty available on competing platforms like Sony’s PlayStation. The obvious concern is that Microsoft could make this title available exclusively on the Xbox console, undermining opportunities for Sony PlayStation users.

To be clear, Microsoft will continue to make Call of Duty and other popular Activision Blizzard titles available on PlayStation through the term of any existing agreement with Activision. And we have committed to Sony that we will also make them available on PlayStation beyond the existing agreement and into the future so that Sony fans can continue to enjoy the games they love. We are also interested in taking similar steps to support Nintendo’s successful platform. We believe this is the right thing for the industry, for gamers and for our business.

And with that, this story comes to an end. Although let's be honest, there will be many wrinkles along the way. Not to mention the fact that the FTC is reportedly stepping in to review the Microsoft + Activision Blizzard deal. However, this will be the last update to this particular article. Let us know down in the comments below what you think about the acquisition and the developments we've had since the announcement.

UPDATE 01/20/2022: As predicted, Call of Duty will still release on PlayStation. Head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, confirmed this news via a tweet:

Had good calls this week with leaders at Sony. I confirmed our intent to honor all existing agreements upon acquisition of Activision Blizzard and our desire to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation. Sony is an important part of our industry, and we value our relationship.

Phil Spencer is very careful with his wording here and specifies Call of Duty by name. Meaning the same treatment might not extend to other franchises.

ORIGINAL 01/18/2022: Over the past few months, the situation at Activision Blizzard has seemed rather bleak. Numerous reports of poor workplace behavior and frat-boy culture followed by lawsuits, walkouts, and complete lack of action from higher-ups have made gamers and other video game companies reevaluate their relationship with the massive video game publisher behind Call of Duty, Diablo, World of Warcraft, and more. Both PlayStation and Xbox have stated that they are looking into the issues at Activision Blizzard. Sony did so by urging the leadership to take steps to do the right thing for the company. It seems Xbox had a different plan. In a Bruce Wayne "I bought the bank" style announcement, Microsoft has acquired Activision Blizzard for a whopping $68.7 billion.

To put the worth of this deal into context, earlier this month, Take-Two purchased Zynga for nearly $13 billion, making that the most expensive gaming transaction ever. That title now goes to this transaction. This deal will still take some time to go through, but it is the second big acquisition that Microsoft has made for Xbox this new console generation. This new transaction puts Treyarch, Raven Software, High Moon Studios, Beenox, Sledgehammer Games, Infinity Ward, Demonware, Toys for Bob, and more under the Xbox umbrella. Furthermore, Overwatch, Diablo, Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Candy Crush, and StarCraft will all soon be Xbox properties. Similar to what happened after the ZeniMax Media acquisition, previous and classic Activision Blizzard titles will slowly be added to the Xbox Game Pass catalog. 

Will Call of Duty become an Xbox exclusive? It's hard to say for certain, but according to the Xbox Wire post and a new report from Bloomberg, it's safe to assume that it won't be. According to the wording in both, it seems that franchises like Call of Duty, which has established a base on other platforms as well, will maintain that release plan. Though the long partnership between PlayStation and Call of Duty, which has seen PlayStation gamers receive bonus missions and game modes, will probably come to an end. The only change would be that those games will be added to Xbox Game Pass on day one. New IPs and titles from Activision Blizzard, like Starfield from Bethesda, will likely be console exclusive moving forward.

That's all fine and dandy, but what about the situation at Activision Blizzard? Well, until this transaction is complete, which is estimated to be around June of 2023, Activision Blizzard will operate independently. Afterward, they will report to Phil Spencer as CEO. It is unclear at this time if Bobby Kotick, who has been the center of much of the controversy around Activision Blizzard, will leave the company. But if Xbox wants to regain the trust that Activision Blizzard has lost in recent months, they need to shake up the company leadership. There are some incredible teams working under Activision Blizzard and they shouldn't have to suffer for poor decision-making from the people at the top.

While the controversy isn't directly addressed in the press release, Phil Spencer does make a point to mention Microsoft's commitment to inclusivity in the gaming industry. He goes on to say that he looks forward to extending that "culture of proactive inclusion" to the teams at Activision Blizzard. We will have to wait and see how this deal pans out for Xbox, Activision Blizzard, and the gaming industry as a whole. But if the way Phil Spencer has swung Xbox over the last few years is a sign of anything, then we have better days to look forward to.

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