Is Xbox About To Blow PlayStation Out Of The Water With Latest Controversial Move?


This week, Microsoft announced that the company is planning to purchase Activision-Blizzard in a massive buyout that’s unprecedented in the video game industry.

Microsoft is paying buck bucks for the Call Of Duty and World Of Warcraft maker $68.7 billion. Activision is also the parent company of mobile game developer King, the studio behind Candy Crush Saga.

This dwarfs the recently announced acquisition of mobile game-maker Zynga by Take-Two Interactive for $12.6 billion, as well as Microsoft’s acquisition of Skyrim and Fallout publisher, Bethesda for $7.5 billion in 2021.

So what does this mean for Xbox and PlayStation gamers? Will all of Activision-Blizzard’s games still be available to PS4 and PS5 gamers or will we see the end of an era, with Xbox taking over whatever segments of the gaming space that money can buy.

At this point, with the acquisition still in the works, neither company is saying which games and franchises will become Xbox and PC exclusives—and which games will remain on competitor platforms like PlayStation and Nintendo.

When I asked PR reps for the companies what this meant specifically for the future of Call Of Duty on PlayStation, I was told:

“Activision Blizzard’s games exist on a variety of platforms today, and we plan to continue supporting those communities moving forward. The acquisition is about increasing the availability of Activision Blizzard content across more platforms, including mobile. This is consistent with Microsoft’s commitment to giving players more choice to play the games they want, anywhere.”

This echoes what Xbox chief Phil Spencer recently said according to Bloomberg, “I’ll just say to players out there who are playing Activision Blizzard games on Sony’s platform: It’s not our intent to pull communities away from that platform and we remained committed to that.”

Bloomberg also reports that CEO Bobby Kotick will loon soon after the deal closes, freeing up Microsoft to deal with the various scandals and controversies Activision-Blizzard has been embroiled in.

To me, these statements suggest that Call Of Duty will remain a multiplatform title—but they’re still far from a guarantee. Having the best-selling video game franchise of the year as an Xbox/PC exclusive—and free for Xbox Game Pass subscribers—would be a massive win for Microsoft.

On the other hand, PlayStation gamers won’t necessarily move to Xbox just for Call Of Duty, and the company risks taking huge losses if the yearly mega-hit doesn’t release on PS4 and PS5, where a large share of copies are sold each year.

Either way, however, this gives Microsoft a massive boost in the console wars. As my colleague Paul Tassi argues, Sony really has no way to strike back at this “Death Star” of acquisitions and consolidation. The Japanese company is still a bigger video game company, but it’s a much smaller company overall. Microsoft’s war coffers are much richer, its pockets much deeper.

Perhaps Sony should invest in a AAA military shooter franchise that’s exclusive to PlayStation (and PC, hopefully!) that rivals Call Of Duty while giving gamers essentially the same experience, but with better campaigns. That would be one benefit of this type of competition.

As for the gaming industry writ large, I really do worry about these many acquisitions taking place in such a short period of time. Microsoft has been on a major buying spree, and this means less independence in the industry and potentially less competition and more uniformity. While Xbox seems to be in good hands now, leadership does change. Goalposts shift. What Microsoft wants to do with these games and these studios now may be great news for gamers, but that might not last.

Meanwhile, the video game industry continues to produce more and more unsustainably expensive AAA titles that increasingly rely on “games-as-service” revenue models to stay afloat, and I remain dubious that this can go on forever. There is only so much time and money in consumers’ pockets.

For now, I imagine that all these Activision-Blizzard franchises will remain on all the platforms they’re currently on, and I suspect that will remain the case for Call Of Duty in the near-term. But down the road, don’t be surprised if Overwatch 2 is an Xbox exclusive, or the next Black Ops. Only time will tell. Time and money.

In the meantime, Sony continues to dominate sales in the PS5 vs Xbox Series X battle, and generally has a pretty healthy head start in the console wars thanks to all of PlayStation’s phenomenal exclusives, so I don’t think the company has too much to worry about—at least not yet.

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