Xbox Chief On Activision & Sony Plans
In the wake of Microsoft’s $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard, the largest acquisition deal in both gaming and tech sectors to date, there are some obvious questions being raised about the details of the deal and the inevitable industry-wide shifts to come.
The deal has received a mixed response from the gaming journalism community – especially as it comes two years after the similarly-sized Disney acquisition of Fox which seems to have yielded more negatives than positives thus far.
With this deal, some are hopeful Activision Blizzard’s dormant franchises could see a revival. Others are wondering when the company’s franchises will come to Game Pass, and if the thirty or so studios Microsoft now controls will start pumping out fresh or revitalised IP or be reorganised to serve as support for “Call of Duty” entries and other major franchises.
Then there’s the biggest question of all – namely exclusivity and will “Call of Duty” be turned into a franchise only for Xbox and PC platforms? CEO of Microsoft Gaming, Phil Spencer, has spoken with The Washington Post and answered some of those pressing questions. First up, he makes it clear it’s not just the currently popular large franchises that are the focus of this deal:
“We’re hoping that we’ll be able to work with them when the deal closes to make sure we have resources to work on franchises that I love from my childhood, and that the teams really want to get. I’m looking forward to these conversations. I really think it’s about adding resources and increasing capability.”
Spencer in fact lists some series that he is interested in such as “King’s Quest,” “Guitar Hero” and “HeXen”. Others not mentioned but could also see comebacks are the likes of “Prototype,” “Spyro” and “Crash Bandicoot”.
Then there’s the “Call of Duty” on PlayStation platforms question. The deal itself won’t close until well into 2023 which suggests this year’s entry in the franchise will roll out as usual, as will perhaps 2023. Beyond that though?
A Sony spokesman told The Wall Street Journal that “we expect that Microsoft will abide by contractual agreements and continue to ensure Activision games are multiplatform”. Spencer followed that up with a tweet saying:
“Had good calls this week with leaders at Sony. I confirmed our intent to honor all existing agreements upon acquisition of Activision Blizzard and our desire to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation. Sony is an important part of our industry, and we value our relationship.”
That’s a carefully worded response, but one that suggests, for now, there’s not going to be an immediate change. He also tells The Wall Street Journal he doesn’t see Sony or Nintendo as Xbox’s main rivals anymore – rather it’s the massive tech companies like Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Google who are large enough to truly disrupt the industry.
Despite leading in terms of game revenue, Sony as a company is only a fraction of the size of Microsoft and simply can’t compete on the acquisition front in a way that one of those tech giants could. Spencer says:
“Nintendo’s not going to do anything that damages gaming in the long run because that’s the business they are in. Sony is the same and I trust them… Valve’s the same way. When we look at the other big tech competitors for Microsoft: Google has search and Chrome, Amazon has shopping, Facebook has social, all these large-scale consumer businesses. The discussion we’ve had internally, where those things are important to those other tech companies for how many consumers they reach, gaming can be that for us.”
Microsoft seems intent to be far less concerned about console wars and more intent on getting the Game Pass service onto as many platforms as possible from smart TVs and phones to tablets, laptops, and potentially even rival consoles:
“I think we do have a unique point of view, which is not about how everything has to run on a single device or platform. That’s been the real turning point for us looking at gaming as a consumer opportunity that could have a similar impact on Microsoft that some of those other scale consumer businesses do for other big tech competitors.”
So far early efforts from those giant tech rivals haven’t faired so great from Google’s Stadia game streaming service to Amazon’s MMORPG title “New World”. Facebook has arguably had the most success in the field with their Oculus Quest VR headset.
As the Microsoft-Activision deal has many months ahead before being finalised, assuming no regulatory roadblocks, nothing is expected to be finalised anytime soon.