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After a lengthy legal battle with regulators, Microsoft’s $68.7 billion acquisition of game publisher Activision Blizzard is complete, adding another stack of franchises and studios to the tech company’s portfolio.
Microsoft’s Xbox division just picked up massive gaming brands like Call of Duty, Warcraft, Candy Crush Saga, and Overwatch in the process, joining already-owned IP like Minecraft and The Elder Scrolls, plus it has Activision studios like Blizzard, Infinity Ward, and King. Microsoft now owns over 23 game studios.
“To the millions of fans who love Activision, Blizzard, and King games, we know that you are the heart and soul of these franchises, and we’re honored to have you as part of our community,” wrote Xbox boss Phil Spencer in a tweet celebrating the acquisition Friday.
Now that Microsoft owns Activision and its various massive gaming franchises, what happens next? Here are a few of the big, burning questions, as well as the answers that Microsoft and Activision have provided thus far.
What happens to Activision Blizzard?
Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick will remain in his role but will now report directly to Spencer, according to an internal email Spencer sent to employees Friday. Spencer reportedly asked Kotick to stay on in his current role until the end of 2023, according to a blog post from the Activision CEO.
Microsoft has made no suggestion that it will fold the brands into Xbox entirely. Brands like Activision, Blizzard, and King carry a lot of weight, so it makes sense that Microsoft would continue to use them for as long as they remain valuable.
Will Activision Blizzard games be exclusive to Xbox and PC?
Microsoft agreed to keep Activision’s prominent Call of Duty franchise on Sony PlayStation and Nintendo consoles for at least 10 years through a pair of separate deals reached with both rival hardware makers earlier this year. The moves were apparently made to ease the fears of regulators that the acquisition would yield a monopoly.
Since Microsoft acquired Bethesda in 2021, it honored PS5 exclusive agreements for games like Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo. But Starfield and Redfall were released as Xbox and PC exclusives this year, so it’s likely future Bethesda titles will be similarly released as Xbox exclusives, much to the frustration of PlayStation owners.
It's unclear whether Activision Blizzard plans to take a similar approach aside from Call of Duty, but if the Bethesda deal signals precedent, then some major gaming franchises could be missing from Sony and Nintendo consoles in the coming years.
When will Activision Blizzard games come to Xbox Game Pass?
In a post published Friday, Spencer said that Xbox is actively working to bring Activision, Blizzard, and King games to “Game Pass and other platforms,” adding that more will be shared “in the coming months.”
Xbox Game Pass is Microsoft’s all-you-can-play subscription service, offering up over 100 games to download and play for a monthly fee. Titles like Call of Duty, Overwatch 2, and Diablo IV won’t be added this year—but players will see Activision Blizzard games trickle onto the service in 2024, according to the studio.
“We anticipate that we would begin adding games into Game Pass sometime in the course of next year,” Activision Blizzard shared on Twitter.
What about cloud streaming games?
Assassin’s Creed publisher Ubisoft now has perpetual cloud streaming rights for all Activision Blizzard games, including Call of Duty. This means that all current Activision Blizzard games can be added to Ubisoft’s game subscription service, Ubisoft+, and the publisher can also license streaming access to other cloud gaming companies, according to a Ubisoft blog post published Friday.
Ubisoft also has the cloud streaming rights for the next 15 years of Activision Blizzard games, according to the company. The Ubisoft deal was a part of Microsoft’s broader move to acquire Activision Blizzard, in order to appease regulators.
“We have those streaming rights in perpetuity,” wrote Ubisoft Senior Community Experience Manager Daniel O’Connor. “So, even after the terms of this deal come to an end, we will still have those rights and we will still be able to provide those games to people and companies throughout the world, so there are a lot of possibilities.”