Reworded: The Impact of the Biggest Deal in Gaming History on Call of Duty, Overwatch, and Other Titles
Finally, the long-awaited moment has arrived – Microsoft has officially acquired Activision Blizzard for $69 billion. This deal has been hailed as the largest in the history of the video game industry, although some may argue that the 1965 merger of Nihon Goraku Bussan and Rosen Enterprises to form Sega Enterprises was even bigger (but let’s not delve into that discussion).
In its press release, Microsoft attempted to diminish the importance of this event by highlighting that it will simply be the third largest company in terms of gaming revenue, behind Tencent and Sony. Nevertheless, it is clear that Microsoft now holds considerable influence with its ownership of popular games such as Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Overwatch, and Candy Crush Saga.
What impact will this have on us, the gaming community? Initially, there will not be a significant increase in the number of Activision Blizzard games available on the Xbox Game Pass subscription service. In his blog post about the purchase, Xbox head Phil Spencer simply stated, “Today, we begin the process of bringing beloved franchises from Activision, Blizzard, and King to Game Pass and other platforms. We will provide more information about when you can expect to play in the upcoming months. We understand your enthusiasm – and we share it as well.” It is evident that there are many specifics that need to be worked out.
It is highly unlikely that Call of Duty will only be available on Xbox for the next ten years, as Microsoft has made a deal to keep it on other gaming platforms. However, there is no guarantee for other Activision titles. While Microsoft has demonstrated their preference for console exclusivity with games like Starfield and Elder Scrolls VI, they will have to consider if limiting a game’s availability to one platform is truly more beneficial than fostering a diverse, platform-neutral community for online multiplayer titles like Overwatch.
In response to concerns from the UK competition authority regarding the cloud gaming industry, Microsoft has eased worries by transferring the streaming rights of Activision Blizzard games to Ubisoft. However, in their press release, Ubisoft did not specify a timeline for when we can expect these titles to become available on their Ubisoft+ service. It may take some time before we fully understand the implications of this decision.
One of the positive outcomes of the deal is that Activision Blizzard employees will now have the option to form unions, although this may not directly affect us players. According to a statement from the Communication Workers of America, Microsoft has pledged to remain neutral towards unionization, which is in contrast to the actions of Activision Blizzard’s management. The CWA claims that the company has responded to attempts to unionize with illegal retaliation and efforts to hinder union elections. The future may be uncertain for Activision Blizzard employees as they wait to see how Microsoft will integrate their roles into its Xbox business. In January, Microsoft announced layoffs of 10,000 employees as part of cost-cutting measures, and there may be overlapping roles in the management and production structures of Activision.
However, although this was a significant and impactful deal, the concept of merging corporations is not a new one in the gaming world. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Electronic Arts made numerous acquisitions of studios and smaller publishers. Similarly, the French company Infogrames, now called Atari, also made numerous purchases of developers during this time, as did Take-Two Interactive. During my time reporting on the industry for Edge magazine, I frequently observed large companies buying out smaller ones in a competitive manner.
One instance involves DMA Design, the developer of Grand Theft Auto and Lemmings. The small company from Dundee was purchased by Gremlin Interactive in 1997, which was later acquired by Infogrames in 1999. Infogrames then merged into Atari in 2003. The Gremlin brand was acquired by Warner Bros, while BMG Interactive originally published Grand Theft Auto before it was sold to Take-Two and eventually became part of Rockstar Games. Are you feeling bewildered? It’s understandable.
I am not enthusiastic or curious about this deal because it is not new to me. The most important factor is the quality of the games that come from it, and that the game developers have creative freedom and are respected. The publisher of Doom at any point in its existence doesn’t matter (as multiple companies have had a go), what matters is that Doom is an excellent game and continues to be enjoyed by all.
If we examine other forms of media, only the most dedicated fans are aware of the film distributors or record labels behind their favorite classic movies and albums. While there are a few exceptional companies that have made a significant impact on their content, such as Motown, Def Jam, RKO Pictures, Shaw Brothers, and A24, most of us do not eagerly anticipate new releases from Lionsgate or Sony Music Entertainment.
One thing Xbox’s Spencer always says is that it’s the games that matter. I agree. Nintendo rarely indulges in spending sprees on external companies, yet it has made some of the greatest games of all time. Is there some sort of connection between not subscribing to the “endless expansion by any means” mantra and overseeing a reliable production line of brilliant games that people love and admire? Could it be that quality is more important than corporate moving, shaking and muscle flexing? Now that, is a $69bn question.
What to play
For longtime fans of Sega, encountering a new Sonic game can be anxiety-inducing. As someone who still has nightmares about Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric, I was hesitant about Sonic Superstars. However, I can assure you that this game is a great one. It pays homage to the character’s former glory on the Mega Drive, while also incorporating modern elements like co-op multiplayer. The level design is still as complex as ever, and the music is truly enjoyable. While it may not reach the status of classics like Sonic 2, Sonic Rush, or Sonic CD, it falls comfortably in the middle ground with games like Sonic Colors and Sonic Advance.
This content can be accessed on multiple platforms: PC, PS4/5, Switch, and Xbox.
Playtime: 10-20 hours
What to read
There has been significant discussion within the industry regarding the Microsoft agreement. James Batchelor’s article on Gamesindustry.biz provides a helpful summary. He has also authored a book about the top non-violent video games, which may be of interest to those with children entering the gaming world or those who choose not to engage in virtual violence.
On PlayStation, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 has been receiving extremely favorable critiques, including my own review, with a score of 91 on Metacritic. Polygon has published an insightful article on how the game reimagines Spider-Man’s backstory, incorporating a quote from Angela Carter and making it the standout games piece of the week.
I also really enjoyed this short personal essay entitled “Growing up on Halo” by writer Rae Maybee. It perfectly captures how games often fit into the tapestries of family life.
What to click
Review of Spider-Man 2 by Marvel – an immersive and emotionally charged fantasy with plenty of conflict.
Review of Forza Motorsport – a luxurious, realistic driving simulator that pays tribute to the raw power of V8 engines.
Saltsea Chronicles review – beguiling marine mystery is a delightful adventure
This inquiry is from Tombo, who posted on Twitter/X.
“Many people have expressed a strong sense of longing for games from previous decades. With advancements in technology, newer games are undeniably superior. Is our fondness for older games simply nostalgic for our childhood, or have we lost something as games have evolved?”
Exploring the significance of older games involves intertwining various cultural, personal, technological, and societal elements. Our fondness for retro games goes beyond mere nostalgia, as certain titles like Tetris, Pac-Man, Defender, Qix, and Minefield continue to captivate us with their gameplay, which cannot be enhanced by more advanced graphics or expansive virtual worlds. Despite its small file size of 24KB, Pac-Man remains an addictive experience, proving that its gameplay trumps visual enhancements in creating a compelling game.
As we reflect on older games, it is important to acknowledge the technological advancements they brought at the time. Although Super Mario 64 and Grand Theft Auto III may seem outdated now, they were pioneers in the 3D realm of the gaming industry, making their significance go beyond mere nostalgia.
Has anything been lost in the modern era? Maybe there was a certain innocence and naivety to games, specifically home video games, in the early 1980s. Programmers were not familiar with the typical genres or archetypes seen in today’s games. When playing titles like Attack of the Mutant Camels, Sentinel, Paradroid, or Lords of Midnight, there was no understanding of where they fit in the larger landscape of the gaming industry. Labels like “arcade adventure,” “platformer,” and “shooter” were still emerging.
Strange, uncategorizable games continue to be developed, and I am still hopeful and enthusiastic about them.