Following today’s bombshell announcement that Microsoft is purchasing Activision Blizzard for $70BN, many questions still remain, not least regarding how the deal will impact platform exclusivity for the third-party publisher’s previously multi-platform titles – and it’s something Xbox head Phil Spencer has started to address, albeit in the vaguest of terms, as he continues his post-announcement PR rounds.
It’s a topic that was touched upon in the briefest of manners in Microsoft’s original press release announcing the deal, with the company stating, “Activision Blizzard games are enjoyed on a variety of platforms and we plan to continue to support those communities moving forward.”
Spencer has now repeated a slight variation of that sentiment in conversation with Bloomberg, telling the publication, “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.”
As carefully worded as the statement may be, it’s hard ignore that the present tense in “players…who are playing” is doing an awful lot of heavy lifting, strongly implying Microsoft is only willing to commit to continuing support for currently released multi-platform titles on non-Xbox platforms post-buyout – with a considerable void as far as its future intentions go.
However, citing a “person familiar with the company’s thinking”, Bloomberg’s reports Microsoft’s future decisions are likely to be made on a title-by-title bases, with some of Activision Blizzard’s games being made available on PlayStation (and presumably Switch) while others will be Xbox exclusives. Exactly which titles will end up where remains to be seen.
Of course, Microsoft’s messaging around platform exclusivity was equally coy following news of its planned Bethesda and Zenimax Studios buyout back in September 2020, with Microsoft initially only willing to confirm the companies’ games would be coming to Game Pass.
In November, it revealed it wanted Bethesda games to be “either first or better or best” on its platforms, but it wasn’t until the following March that it started to be more bullish about exclusivity, confirming “some new titles” from Bethesda and Zenimax Studios would be “exclusive to Xbox and PC”. Spencer expanded on that sentiment several days later, saying, “If you’re an Xbox customer, the thing I want you to know is [the acquisition] is about delivering great exclusive games for you that ship on platforms where Game Pass exists.”
Since then, Bethesda’s Starfield has been confirmed as a PC and Xbox exclusive, while recent remarks from Spencer have suggested that may also be the case for the The Elder Scrolls 6.
What all this ultimately means for the future of Activision Blizzard titles on non-Game Pass platforms remains to be seen, but it’s likely to be some time before Microsoft is willing to lay out its plans in a more transparent fashion.