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Activision Reaction: Microsoft Do it Again

There’s about no bigger screw you in the industry than making Crash Bandicoot your new mascot. But that’s just what Microsoft did when they bought Activision.

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And that’s the least of it. Spending nearly $70b has put them in about as incredible a position as they ever could be. They’ve taken on a whole host of huge hitters, from Call of Duty and Warcraft to Spyro the Dragon and Tony Hawks.

Like with Bethesda, we must now wait several months until questions are properly answered. Will games still be released on PlayStation? In the case of Call of Duty, it would seem mad not to, and yet perhaps not. Perhaps Warzone will continue, while the Call of Duty game itself will become Xbox exclusive.

And with the excitement of another huge purchase in the industry, a couple of things stand out.

The Activision Purchase is Extremely Clever

This is undeniable. Despite the controversies, Activision Blizzard is still a company with a lot of weight. It means you have family games with Spyro and Crash, PC hardhitters like Warcraft and StarCraft and perennial action titles like Call of Duty.

These will add enormous value to Game Pass. Not just with day one releases in the future – and that though is enough to make your mouth water. But with legacy releases going back decades. Some of us might even get to play Sekiro at long last…

This is a deal that covers a lot of bases.

The PlayStation Question

We’ve been here before. What exactly does this purchase mean for the wider gaming circle, and in particular for PlayStation?

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: where possible, you can bet your bottom dollar that games will only release on platforms where Game Pass exists unless they already exist on other platforms.

So Warzone will continue to be supported. Crash 4 could have DLC. Crash 5 won’t ever see a Sony console.

That’s a shame given the franchise’s history, but that’s part of what makes this deal so surprising.

There will be exceptions. Although Activision were in a better position than Bethesda, it might be that certain contracts have been made with other publishers or platform holders, and those will be honoured.

Naturally this is speculation, although not unfounded. We’ve seen what happened with Bethesda and this should be very similar.

Let’s Not Forget…

Activision has had a lot of bad headlines lately, and for good reason. Their treatment of staff has been poor. Their games have been half-baked.

This purchase must not make fans forget, especially as CEO Bobby Kotick will be remaining in his role of Activision CEO. That is a big screw you to victims, and a big screw you to fans.

Microsoft need to address these issues, something that is harder now than it was a few months ago. If they don’t face them head on, it’s going to leave a sour taste in the mouths of fans who want to see change.

The problems haven’t been forgotten. Soon, once the money has cleared, they will be Microsoft’s problems.

Consolidation and Activision

This is a big purchase, and while it nowhere near makes Microsoft a monopoly, it does raise questions about how many more big companies will be swallowed up.

The answer is all of them. Activision is the latest – not the first, nor the last. There is value in owning publishers, and it’s not just Microsoft that has spotted it.

The days of small indie publishers and relatively small platform holders died when Sony released the PlayStation. They paid their way through exclusives, killing off Sega and forcing Nintendo into the odd little position they inhabit now.

And I hate to say that’s business, but it is. PlayStation was and is incredible.

This is business as well. And while it’s easy to celebrate because exciting things on this scale rarely happen in our industry – especially when it means all these titles coming to Game Pass – consolidation is never good.

It’s happening and we must accept it, but it must be watched. That’s true no matter who does it. If you’re more upset about Microsoft buying Activision than you were about Take Two buying Zynga, than you’re coming at the problem from the wrong direction.

 

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blank Mat Growcott has been a long-time member of the gaming press. He's written two books and a web series, and doesn't have nearly enough time to play the games he writes about.

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