What does Microsoft’s Activision acquisition mean for gamers?

an image showing Microsoft to buy Activision Blizzard
(Image credit: Microsoft)

And just like that, the drama seemed to evaporate. While Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision still isn’t a completely done deal, the decision by Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley to side with Microsoft and not the FTC means that the odds now feel stacked in the Xbox maker’s favor (pending a possible appeal, of course).

There are still outstanding issues to be resolved with the U.K.’s Competitions and Markets Authority. But assuming things progress smoothly from hereon in, Microsoft will likely be the new home of iconic franchises ranging from Call of Duty and Crash Bandicoot to World of Warcraft and Candy Crush Saga. 

So what does and could that mean for gamers? We’ve outlined some of the burning questions you might have below.

Will Call of Duty come to Xbox Game Pass?

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 screenshot

(Image credit: Infinity Ward/Activision)

That’s very much the plan. “We intend to make Activision Blizzard’s much-loved library of games – including Overwatch, Diablo and Call of Duty – available in Game Pass and to grow those gaming communities,” CEO of Microsoft Gaming, Phil Spencer, wrote last September.

In the case of Call of Duty, that’s a whole lot of content. Not only are Black Ops Cold War, Vanguard and Modern Warfare II built for Xbox Series X and Series S consoles, but the following titles are also available via backwards compatibility on Xbox One and Series consoles:

  • Call of Duty 2
  • Call of Duty 3
  • Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
  • Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops II
  • Call of Duty: Ghosts
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
  • Call of Duty: World at War

Notably, when Microsoft bought Bethesda, its backwards-compatible titles were enhanced with FPS Boost, so hopefully Activision’s titles will be similarly optimized.

Will this spell price increases on Game Pass?

Tom's Guide Awards 2023:

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

It certainly won’t help. Microsoft didn’t spend $68.7 billion on Activision Blizzard out of charity, and Game Pass will be a key way the company intends to recoup that investment. 

Price increases have been signposted for a long time, which isn’t especially surprising considering the value the service offers. Earlier this month, prices rose from $9.99 to $10.99 for basic Game Pass, and from $14.99 to $16.99 Ultimate

Ultimately, it would be surprising if this was the last increase we saw and all that legacy Activision content will help justify the decision.

Will Call of Duty become an Xbox exclusive?

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 screenshot

(Image credit: Infinity Ward/Activision)

Microsoft swears not — and it’s had to make certain commitments to get past the regulatory hurdles that were in the way of the acquisition going ahead.

One concession is that Call of Duty will continue to be available on rival platforms for at least a decade, Microsoft says, which should take us onto the PS6 at least.

And throughout the takeover, Microsoft has been adamant that it wouldn’t make sense to cut off Sony

“As we’ve always said, any realistic modeling of the true cost of removing CoD from PlayStation players clearly demonstrates that there is absolutely no financial incentive for us to do so,” Rima Alaily, corporate vice president and deputy counsel for Microsoft told The Verge back in March. 

Indeed, it’s worth noting that Microsoft has continued to support Minecraft on other platforms since its purchase of Mojang.

All the same, Microsoft has made it clear that Starfield — the next big release coming from Bethesda — won’t be released on PS5. And that should make fans nervous for Activision properties going forward, even if Call of Duty has temporary protections in place.

Will Microsoft make a new Guitar Hero/Prototype/Tony Hawk’s/Starcraft?

tony hawk

(Image credit: Activision)

While most outsiders believe that Microsoft was chiefly interested in Call of Duty — a series that always dominates the charts with every new release — Activision Blizzard isn’t short of iconic franchises, even if some have lain dormant for some time.

Here are the main franchises of both Activision and Blizzard:


  • Call of Duty
  • Crash Bandicoot
  • Spyro
  • Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater
  • Prototype
  • Guitar Hero (plus those spin-offs: DJ Hero and Band Hero)
  • Candy Crush


  • Diablo
  • Warcraft
  • Overwatch
  • Starcraft
  • Hearthstone

There are also plenty of long-forgotten IPs that could potentially be revived: think True Crime, Gun, King’s Quest and Blur.

Will Microsoft revive any of them? While nothing is guaranteed, Microsoft’s studios have form here: there were 16 years between Psychonauts and its sequel, while the 2020 revival of Battletoads came 26 years after its last outing in 1994.

Game Pass could prove a useful testbed here. If Microsoft republishes an old title via backward compatibility and it takes off, then that’s a good indicator that a franchise is ready for its return.

Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.