10 Predictions Following Microsoft Buying Activision Blizzard

Microsoft announced on Tuesday their plans to acquire Activision Blizzard, in perhaps the biggest blockbuster announcement in gaming in the last 10 years. We thought the acquisition of Bethesda back in 2020 was huge news, but this blows that out of the water and then some.

Microsoft has reached a deal to acquire Activision Blizzard, the company confirmed today. Sarah E. Needleman with the Wall Street Journal broke the news, saying the outlet’s sources told it the Xbox maker was nearing an agreement to buy the Call of Duty company. Minutes later, Bloomberg’s Dina Bass put a dollar figure on it, saying sources put the value of the deal at nearly $70 billion.

What does this mean for the games and studios under the Activision-Blizzard banner? I’ve put together some ideas. Let me know what you think, plus your own predictions.

Call of Duty Exclusive to Game Pass

Exclusivity instantly came up when the news broke, and rightly so. All of these deals over the past couple of years, this one with Activision-Blizzard, and the previous deal with Bethesda is all about Xbox Game Pass and driving more value into that service, so it’s hard to say no to the offering. I thought we were there already, but this deal pushes it over the edge. It’s going to be interesting to see which brands and games go exclusive, but for Microsoft to shell out nearly $70 billion, then I would imagine a high percentage of Activision’s properties are going to be exclusive to Xbox Game Pass. If the deal goes through in 2023, then maybe in 2024 we’ll start to see Call of Duty exclusive to Xbox and PC, which is huge.

Microsoft was coy about whether Activision Blizzard’s would be made exclusives

“Upon close, we will offer as many Activision Blizzard games as we can within Xbox Game Pass and PC Game Pass, both new titles and games from Activision Blizzard’s incredible catalog,” Spencer said. “We also announced today that Game Pass now has more than 25 million subscribers. As always, we look forward to continuing to add more value and more great games to Game Pass.”

Spencer said something similar when they closed the deal for Bethesda, however, the tone changed within a few days “this is about delivering great exclusive games for you that ship on platforms where Game Pass exists.”

Call of Duty Releases Less Frequently

Staying with Call of Duty for a moment, I think there are plenty of positives to come out of this, especially for fans, but also for developers too. Activision has studios working on the Call of the Duty conveyor belt (Raven, Treyarch, Infinity Ward). This could mean we actually get fewer Call of Duty releases, and teams get the time and the space to develop meaningful Call of Duty entries. Activision has been great at making money from the Call of Duty brand, however, they have lost their innovative side, given the time pressures on them to deliver the next Call of Duty each year.

World of Warcraft subscription included in Game Pass

Blizzard and its library of games is a very exciting proposition for Xbox. Microsoft already has PC Game Pass, and they could add in a World of Warcraft subscription as a benefit for Ultimate Game Pass Subscribers, which would be another great added value for Game Pass on PC.

Xbox Game Studios Smash Brothers Game

Xbox now has enough IP to make a Smash Brother clone including Master Chief, Doom Guy, Crash Bandicoot, Spyro, Raz from Psychonauts, Steve from Minecraft, and many many more. A Smash Clone or Kart Racing Clone could be on the cards with such an amazing lineup, and it would be much easier to bring all that IP under one game because Microsoft has simply gobbled up all these companies.

Bobby Kotich Leaves (But Gets Richer In The Process)

It’s highly likely that Bobby Kotich will leave after the deal has been processed, although it looks like he’s due a golden parachute of $200 million-plus. In November, Xbox head Phil Spencer sent an email to employees saying Microsoft leadership was “disturbed and deeply troubled” by what happened at Activision Blizzard, adding that he was “evaluating all aspects of our relationship with Activision Blizzard and making ongoing proactive adjustments.”

After the deal was announced, Phil Spencer said “As a company, Microsoft is committed to our journey for inclusion in every aspect of gaming, among both employees and players. We deeply value individual studio cultures. We also believe that creative success and autonomy go hand-in-hand with treating every person with dignity and respect. We hold all teams, and all leaders, to this commitment. We’re looking forward to extending our culture of proactive inclusion to the great teams across Activision Blizzard.”

Microsoft has said that Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick will continue to serve in that position, but will report to Spencer after the deal closes.

PlayStation Steps Up Their Acqusitions

Sony is likely to have to up their game, or risk being swallowed up themselves. This move makes Microsoft the third biggest gaming company in the world behind only Tencent and Sony. Microsoft needed a big play to catch up to Sony, and this could be it… or at least the start of it, I don’t think Microsoft is done yet.

Tom Philips from Eurogamer reports on the immediate impact on Sony following the news.

“Shares in Sony have dropped by 13 percent, as the Tokyo stock market reacted to yesterday’s industry-shaking announcement that Microsoft will buy Activision Blizzard. The fall in stock price is the largest since October 2008 – the same month Sony was forced to recall 100,000 laptop batteries due to fire hazards. The Financial Times and Bloomberg spotted Sony’s sudden stock plunge overnight, and noted it had wiped around $20bn from Sony’s market value.”

Mobile versions of big franchises

As part of the acquisition, King comes along and brings a wealth of mobile expertise with them. Microsoft doesn’t really have any skin in the game when it comes to mobile gaming, not on par with their competitors. We saw Zynga get purchased by Take-Two for $12.7 billion earlier in the week, which shows Take Two’s intent in the mobile space. I would expect mobile versions of Xbox Franchises in the not too distant future.

Fantasy Gaming Lineups & Crossovers

We could see some incredible crossovers in the coming years. Doom Guy and Master Chief Teaming Up, or some kind of fantasy shooter where you have the cast of Overwatch, Call of Duty, and Halo all in the same game.

Game Pass on Nintendo Switch

We could see Game Pass finally come to Nintendo Switch. Nintendo and Microsoft seemed to be getting pretty cozy with each other before the pandemic, but that relationship in the public space seems to have cooled. Given Nintendo’s hardware is going to be so far behind the Xbox Series X, I could see a world where Xbox Game Pass makes it to Nintendo Switch. This could be achieved through Cloud Gaming and you could tap into the existing market of Nintendo Switch users.

Will Nintendo Be Next?

The big question for me is will Microsoft try to buy Nintendo? It seems like Microsoft is hungry for studios and anything to inject more value into Xbox Game Pass. I understand in the early 2000’s Microsoft approached Nintendo, and they politely declined. However, with numbers like $70 billion floating around, would Nintendo consider it? It seems we’re already approaching a mini-monopoly from Microsoft – would Nintendo be a step too far?

Let me know what you think of the predictions, and let me know if you have any of your own.