For some people, January 18th is a Tuesday, but for us in the gaming world, it’s another massive announcement out of left field. News broke on this day that Microsoft, fresh off of their recent Bethesda acquisition, is now set to acquire Activision Blizzard for a staggering $68.7 billion dollars! This is pending final approval from regulatory bodies, but if this goes through, it will make Microsoft the third largest gaming company in terms of revenue, beaten only by Sony and Tencent.
Of course, you’re probably wondering why this matters to a PlayStation gaming site. For starters, a lot of games you may play on PlayStation could be going exclusive to Xbox now, not to mention the ongoing harassment investigations and toxic culture at Activision Blizzard. There’s a lot of ground to cover, so let’s dive in.
Microsoft Acquires Activision Blizzard: Could Call of Duty Become an Xbox Exclusive?
Getting past the huge amount of money changing hands here, what does this mean for Activision Blizzard’s catalogue? We’re talking about Call of Duty, Overwatch, Diablo, and yes, Candy Crush. This is one of the biggest companies in gaming that’s merging with Microsoft, so does that mean some of your favorite titles are going to go exclusive to Xbox?
Right now the best answer is “maybe.” We had a similar line of questioning when Microsoft acquired Bethesda. As it turned out, Starfield is going to be exclusive to Xbox.
This may not be a blanket policy for Bethesda titles, but the other options aren’t much better for PS5 gamers. Future Bethesda studio titles could be timed exclusives that come to PS5 a year after Xbox, or they could have exclusive content, which brings us back to Call of Duty.
Call of Duty games have often had PlayStation exclusive content or modes in the multiplayer. Obviously, if this deal goes off without a hitch, that’s no longer going to be the case. What could happen is that Xbox enjoys that type of content and COD remains a multiplatform title. My gut says this is how it will be, only because of things like Warzone being multiplatform and Call of Duty being such a decidedly multiplatform title.
Of course, $70 billion is a lot of money, so maybe Sony needs to bring back something like Resistance or Killzone to fill the gap if COD goes Xbox exclusive. Without more detail, we can only speculate here, but it’s safe to assume that at least a few big franchises won’t be on PlayStation going forward.
Addressing the Kotick in the Room
Now, something that cannot be left off the table is the ongoing accusations of harassment and toxic culture at Activision Blizzard. The entire scope of this ongoing investigation is worthy of its own entire article and discussion, but you can get caught up on everything with this piece from PC Gamer.
In addition to the horrible stories coming out of Activision Blizzard since last year, it’s curious that just one week prior to this announcement, Xbox boss Phil Spencer was still cagey about commenting on their relationship with Activision Blizzard, no doubt due to the incoming press the merger will generate.
In an interview with the New York Times, Phil Spencer commented on the relationship between the two companies, saying:
“The work we do specifically with a partner like Activision is something that, obviously, I’m not going to talk publicly about. We have changed how we do certain things with them, and they’re aware of that. But… this isn’t about, for us as Xbox, virtue-shaming other companies. Xbox’s history is not spotless.”
In this writer’s opinion, saying Xbox’s history isn’t “spotless” doesn’t quite equal the sheer volume of horrific stories coming from Activision Blizzard employees. One would hope that acquiring the company means that its CEO, Bobby Kotick, is promptly removed for his involvement and knowledge of what was happening behind closed doors.
At least for now, that doesn’t seem to be the case. In an official post on Microsoft’s website, the article states that “Bobby Kotick will continue to serve as CEO of Activision Blizzard, and he and his team will maintain their focus on driving efforts to further strengthen the company’s culture and accelerate business growth. Once the deal closes, the Activision Blizzard business will report to Phil Spencer, CEO, Microsoft Gaming.”
This has already been met with criticism, as it’s well documented that Bobby Kotick was aware of what was happening at his company.
Should Sony Start Acquiring Companies?
Sony hasn’t been anywhere near as aggresive with studio acquisitions as Microsoft, but seeing how Microsoft is absorbing one of the biggest companies in gaming, I wonder if Sony should step up their game in this regard. Yes, there are some truly incredible PS5 exclusives slated for this year, but at a certain point Microsoft is going to have just as much exclusive power. At what point does Sony’s credibility in that regard run out?
No matter how you slice it, this is big news for gaming. Here’s hoping that Microsoft and Phil Spencer leverage their power and funds to make Activision Blizzard a better, safer place to work, but only time will tell.
What do you think about this news? Are you worried about Activision Blizzard titles becoming Xbox exclusive? Let us know in the comments!
Article by – Bradley Ramsey
Insert date – 1/18/2022