To say that Microsoft’s purchase of Activision Blizzard sent shockwaves through the gaming industry is a profound understatement. There are a number of questions about what other moves Microsoft might make. Also, what Sony and Nintendo are going to do in response to this, and what’s going to happen to the number of controversies the current management of Activision Blizzard find themselves in. There’s also the question of what’s going to happen to series that Activision Blizzard normally release on multiple consoles. The latter of these questions has an answer, and it comes from the highest possible source on it.
Phil Spencer is the head of Microsoft’s Xbox division. On January 20th, Spencer took to Twitter account to settle the question of whether or not Activision Blizzard games are going to remain multi-platform.
If we break down what Spencer says- and his track record for working with other companies- then there’s a lot of good news to be taken from this. The fact that Spencer says Microsoft will “honor all existing agreements upon acquisition of Activision Blizzard” is a very big deal.
Spencer directly references “Call of Duty,” but this is also the company that owns “Diablo,” “Overwatch,” “World of Warcraft,” “Crash Bandicoot,” “Spyro,” the Tony Hawk franchise, “StarCraft,” “Hearthstone,” and more. Even if we were just talking about “Call of Duty,” this would be a huge deal.
Microsoft could easily take these franchises and make them strictly available on PC and Xbox to draw people to their products and consoles. After all, you don’t see Nintendo making Super Mario Bros., Legend of Zelda, Fire Emblem, Kirby, and Metroid games available on other systems. If you want to play them, you have to buy a Nintendo console. Or take Bayonetta for example- the first title was released on Xbox 360 and PS3. But the sequel that Nintendo helped to fund was released solely for the Wii U, and later, the Switch.
So Microsoft has to ask themselves whether or not they would make more money with these newly acquired franchise as exclusives to Xbox consoles and PC, or keeping them multi-platform. Would enough people buy an Xbox to offset the cost of lost game sales on Sony or Nintendo platforms? Not to mention, what would be the backlash from the gaming community if these longstanding, multi-platform games, were suddenly “taken” from them and made console exclusive?
Even before Phil’s statement, the Xbox division of Microsoft had shown a great deal of cooperation with other studios and companies. After Microsoft bought the developers of Minecraft Mojang, they kept the game multi-platform. The game continues to see regular updates on Switch and PlayStation consoles.
We also got to see Microsoft work with Nintendo to give gamers access to formerly Xbox exclusive titles like Ori and the Blind Forest, as well as and Ori and the Will of the Wisps. The two companies even worked out agreements to let Banjo & Kazooie into Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, in a manner that was so easy, Spencer himself said it wouldn’t even be interesting enough to talk about.
On the other hand, there are still some things that this tweet doesn’t mention.
For starters, Spencer may have talked with Sony leaders, but what about Nintendo management? Even though “Call of Duty” isn’t on the Switch, other titles like “Overwatch” and “Diablo” are. Are future games going to be included on that console? Additionally, Spencer says they intend to honor “all existing agreements,” but what exactly does that mean? What are these agreements, and are they time sensitive? What about timed exclusivity? Could “Call of Duty” games (and DLC) appear first on Xbox and PC, and then later on PlayStation?
From the way Spencer talked about gaming (and conducted himself in interviews), he seems to be a pretty cool guy. He has a good level of respect for the gaming community. That being said, money is money, and if Microsoft senses there’s more capital to be gained in exclusivity, then future plans could quickly be called into question.
Guess we’ll just have to see how everything plays out. And yes, that pun is fully intended.