Nearly two years after Microsoft announced it would buy Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion, the Redmond-based tech giant has finally sealed the deal. I’ll spare you the details regarding Microsoft’s battles with US and UK regulators, but suffice it to say that the biggest acquisition in video game history is now behind us.
With titles like Overwatch 2, World of Warcraft and of course Call of Duty under its belt, the Xbox brand is now stronger than ever. This is great news considering how Microsoft’s gaming division has long been in third place behind PlayStation and Nintendo in the never-ending console wars. Sony, who fought hard to stop this deal from happening, is no doubt sweating.
Like it or not, Xbox Game Pass and Xbox as a whole will become more enticing than ever — and that’s good for all gamers. I’ll explain why.
Xbox Game Pass levels up
You’ve heard it a million times, but it’s true — Xbox Game Pass is one of the best deals in gaming. For $15 a month, the subscription service’s Ultimate tier gives you access to hundreds of first-party and third-party games. On top of that, it also has the best cloud gaming streaming service that allows you to play Xbox games on mobile devices. Even Sony’s revised PlayStation Plus service can’t compare.
Being able to play blockbuster first-party games at launch on Game Pass is awesome, but those titles are few and far between. Yes, Starfield exists, but what was the last major release before that? Forza Horizon 5? Halo Infinite? Redfall absolutely doesn’t count, nor do smaller outings like Hi-Fi Rush and The Medium.
When it comes to huge marque games at launch, Xbox Game Pass has been severely lacking. It's the main reason I unsubscribed from the service a year ago. Now that Microsoft owns Activision Blizzard, we should start seeing real blockbusters on the service.
While Call of Duty games are coming to PlayStation for at least the next ten years, these titles will likely be available on Game Pass at launch — meaning subscribers will effectively get Call of Duty for “free” while PlayStation owners will have to fork over $60 to $70. That could be enough incentive for Call of Duty’s massive PlayStation fanbase to switch over to Xbox. The same also applies to fans of Overwatch and other Activision Blizzard franchises. Why buy a game at full price when you can play it (and hundreds of other titles) for $15 a month?
With games from Activision Blizzard, Bethesda and more, Xbox Game Pass will finally live up to its potential.
A true competitor to PlayStation
The Sony PlayStation has been a dominant force in gaming since its release in 1994. With the exception of the PS3/Xbox 360 era where it lost ground to Microsoft in the West, Sony’s console has always overshadowed the Xbox. The key reason is the latter’s lack of compelling first-party games. While Xbox has Halo, Gears of War and Forza, PlayStation has God of War, Uncharted, Spider-Man, The Last of Us, Horizon and Ratchet & Clank just to name a few.
I can’t say acquiring Activision Blizzard’s games instantly puts Xbox Series X on par with PS5 in terms of exclusives — but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Call of Duty alone outsells many of those aforementioned PlayStation games combined. And aside from Spider-Man and perhaps The Last of Us, Call of Duty also has greater name recognition than Sony’s titles. And as I said above, Call of Duty will no doubt bring over many PlayStation owners to Xbox. Want proof? Recall the mass exodus of Call of Duty players who switched from PS3 to Xbox 360 during the infamous PlayStation Network hack in 2011. A similar migration will certainly happen again to some degree.
While Sony has been sitting pretty with its successful PS5, I feel the company has become complacent of late — relying on re-releases and remakes for most of this generation. A smug PlayStation led to the disastrous PS3 launch, which is something we don’t want to see again. Hopefully, Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard buyout will light a fire under Sony’s feet. To quote Kratos from God of War, we need PlayStation to “be better.”
Updating & reviving Activision Blizzard franchises
This one may or may not happen, but now that Microsoft owns Activision Blizzard’s IPs, the company has a chance to revive or update some forgotten franchises.
If Microsoft wants to challenge PlayStation’s Spider-Man, it can do so with Prototype — which is also a superhero franchise set in New York City. Similarly, the open-world True Crime series can keep players happy until Grand Theft Auto 6 drops, while the arcade racer Blur can fill the void left by the missing Burnout franchise. And if Microsoft wants, it can try its hand at resurrecting Guitar Hero. Let’s not forget Starcraft and a return to classic Warcraft, which I’m sure RTS players would appreciate.
I could go on, but suffice it to say Microsoft isn’t just getting Call of Duty and World of Warcraft from this deal. If the company wants to bolster Game Pass with titles people have long been waiting for, it should start doing so immediately.
A brighter future for Xbox
While I would've preferred if Microsoft focused more on creating its own new IPs instead of obtaining them by gobbling up publishers, it’s good knowing that Xbox and Xbox Game Pass now have a larger game library. This will not only benefit Xbox fans but also spur PlayStation to do its best to keep players on its platform. Competition drives innovation, and we could see gaming as a whole become exciting again.
It will be some time before we see the full effects of the Activision Blizzard buyout, but I’m excited about the possibilities. Even if PlayStation remains king, having a strong Xbox vying for its throne should keep Sony on alert. If that’s the case, then we’ll all win in the end.