Highlights

  • Microsoft agrees deal to acquire Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion
  • Activision publishes many popular games, including Call of Duty
  • Microsoft could make Call of Duty an Xbox exclusive

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Call of Duty exclusive to Xbox? All you need to know about Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard deal

Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard will have far reaching implications for the gaming industry at large. The fate of Call of Duty, arguably the most popular franchise in all of gaming, hangs in the balance.

Microsoft has agreed a deal to acquire video game publisher Activision Blizzard for a reported $68.7 billion. This is Microsoft’s biggest acquisition ever, a fair amount more than the $26 billion the company paid to acquire LinkedIn in 2016.

Once completed, the deal will result in the third-largest gaming company by revenue, behind Tencent and Sony. Microsoft had acquired ZeniMax Media, the parent company of prestigious video game publisher Bethesda, last year in a $7.5 billion deal.

Activision Blizzard encompasses Activision, publishers of Call of Duty; Blizzard, publishers of Overwatch, Diablo, World of Warcraft, and Starcraft; and mobile game maker King, who publish the global hit Candy Crush.

The deal will reportedly only be finalised by the fiscal year 2023, which means that it may take up to 18 months for it to be finalised. Activision Blizzard operates in many markets across the globe, which could make it tricky for Microsoft to obtain regulatory approval everywhere.

Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard will have far reaching implications for the gaming industry at large. The fate of Call of Duty, arguably the most popular franchise in all of gaming, hangs in the balance.

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Call of Duty exclusive to Xbox and PC?

Exclusive games are hugely important in the console world, both from a prestige and sales standpoint. Sony’s PlayStation consoles are widely considered to have the lead on high-quality exclusive titles over Microsoft’s Xbox for a while now, with franchises like God of War, Uncharted, and Horizon: Zero Dawn. Microsoft’s acquisition of Bethesda was seen as the company bolstering its side of exclusive games, and Bethesda’s future open-world RPGs are widely expected to be Xbox and PC exclusives.

However, Call of Duty is a whole different ballgame. The franchise gets a majority of its very impressive sales numbers from Sony’s PlayStation consoles. While Microsoft could make this hugely popular franchise exclusive, it would undoubtedly lose out on revenue in terms of sales.

Website PlayStation Universe has reported that a source close to the acquisition said that while some content will be exclusive to Xbox and PC, some titles will remain multi-platform.

Microsoft themselves have indicated this, saying in a statement: “Activision Blizzard games are enjoyed on a variety of platforms and we plan to continue to support those communities moving forward.”

What lies in the future for Call of Duty, and indeed other Activision Blizzard titles, is unclear. It could mean that the planned Call of Duty release for 2023 will continue to release on Xbox Series S/X, PS5, and PC as is tradition. Or it could mean that the free-to-play Call of Duty: Warzone continues to be supported on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 consoles, while new releases are exclusive to Xbox and PC. We’ll have to wait and see.

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Activision Blizzard games on Game Pass

Xbox Game Pass is Microsoft’s video game subscription service, where gamers can pay a monthly fee to access an ever-changing library of games, much like Netflix. Although third party games from other publishers join and leave the library regularly, Microsoft’s first party offerings are always available. Games from Bethesda, including critically acclaimed RPGs Skyrim and Fallout 4, and popular FPS title Doom, are now available on Game Pass as Microsoft-owned properties.

Gamers would expect Activision Blizzard titles, now owned and published by Microsoft, to join the Xbox Game Pass service. And it does look like this will happen. Phil Spencer said: “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.”

Activision Blizzard’s biggest franchise is undoubtedly Call of Duty, which is often the highest-selling videogame every year. Call of Duty being available on Game Pass would be a huge asset for Microsoft. However, Blizzard also publishes many hugely successful franchises like Diablo, StarCraft, and Overwatch. It is currently unclear how many of these would be present on Game Pass.

Blizzard also publishes the massively popular MMO, World of Warcraft, which requires a monthly subscription to play. It remains to be seen how Microsoft will handle this.

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Bobby Kotick to exit Activision Blizzard when deal goes through

Activision Blizzard was recently rocked by a spate of sexual harassment claims. In July 2021, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) sued the company for promoting a culture of “constant sexual harassment”. The company also reached an $18 million settlement with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in September.

Bobby Kotick, current CEO of Activision Blizzard, has received heavy criticism for his handling of the crisis, with many questioning how much he knew about the alleged harassment before it became public knowledge.

According to the Wall St Journal, Bobby Kotick will exit as CEO of Activision Blizzard once the deal goes through. He will, however, retain the role until it is finalised. After the deal is complete, Activision Blizzard will report to Phil Spencer, former head of Xbox and newly-announced CEO of Microsoft Gaming.

Phil Spencer has emphasised that Microsoft will push a culture of inclusivity at Activision Blizzard. “We 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,” he said.

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