Microsoft really out here tryna kickflip over the games industry.
Alongside news that Microsoft is preparing to acquire Activision Blizzard for $70 billion, the Xbox console maker has confirmed that games from the recently troubled Call of Duty and Warcraft publisher will make their way to Xbox Game Pass.
An exact date for when any of Activision Blizzard’s games will arrive on Microsoft’s Netflix-style subscription service has not been announced, nor do we yet know exactly which games from the publisher’s catalog will hit Game Pass. However, acquiring Activision Blizzard does mean effectively acquiring franchises such as Call of Duty, Candy Crush, Diablo, Overwatch, and Warcraft. And in its official announcement, Microsoft said it will “offer as many Activision Blizzard games” as possible for PC Game Pass and Xbox Game Pass.
This includes both new titles and “games from Activision Blizzard’s incredible catalog,” so you can probably expect to see games in the StarCraft and Warcraft series on PC, as well as Call of Duty games across both Xbox consoles and PC. Whether Blizzard’s popular MMO World of Warcraft, which still requires a monthly subscription from players to access all of its content, will get folded into PC Game Pass somehow remains to be seen. Additionally, other Activision Blizzard properties such as Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, and Tony Hawk, among many others, could now make their way to Game Pass in some form. In short, the service’s offerings are probably going to expand significantly.
We’ve reached out to both Activision Blizzard and Microsoft for comment on the matter and will update should we hear back from either company.
This massive acquisition, as you can imagine, will have long-term ramifications for the exclusivity of Activision Blizzard games going forward. Think of when Microsoft bought Bethesda for $7.5 billion back in September 2020. Xbox head Phil Spencer said at the time that games from the Fallout maker would make their way to other consoles “on a case-by-case basis” before clarifying in March 2021 that some games will remain Xbox exclusive. There are “contractual obligations” that will be adhered to, Spencer said in March, but confirmed that Xbox will be the home for future Bethesda games.
It seems likely that with Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard, the Diablo maker’s games going forward will be console-exclusive to the Xbox ecosystem as well. Many of the publisher’s games are multiplatform at the moment, including Call of Duty: Vanguard and Overwatch, but those currently in development, such as Diablo IV and Overwatch 2, could drop their multiplatform launch in favor of satisfying this brand-new partnership, unless there are already “contractual obligations” in place dictating that those games release across multiple platforms.
Perhaps the clearest indication that future Activision Blizzard games will likely be both exclusive to Xbox and made available on Game Pass is Bethesda’s Starfield. While reportedly never planned as a multiplatform title, there was a misunderstanding during Gamescom 2021 that the highly anticipated sci-fi RPG could make its way to PlayStation consoles in the future. It won’t, however, as Bethesda’s senior vice president of global marketing and communications Pete Hines reiterated in June 2021 that Starfield is 100% an Xbox console exclusive. Sorry, PS5 fans.
Elsewhere in the acquisition’s announcement, Microsoft confirmed that Xbox Game Pass has reached “more than 25 million subscribers” to date.