What will (probably) happen to Activision Blizzard's best franchises?
Microsoft must heed the 'Call of Duty.'
As you've no doubt heard by now, Microsoft dug out a gold nugget the size of the moon and handed it to Bobby Kotick in exchange for ownership of Activision Blizzard.
This obviously means that Master Chief will soon be a playable character in Heroes of the Storm.
But what about the dozens of beloved (and perhaps not-so-beloved) video game franchises that Activision Blizzard has managed to stuff under its cavernous tent over the years? Unfortunately, their fates are entirely less than clear, as Microsoft tends to approach platform exclusivity on a case-by-case basis. So, will Phil Spencer personally steal your PS4 copy of Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time and snap it in two while laughing maniacally? Here's what we think.
Please note that this is mostly speculation on our part, so don't send us an angry email when it turns out that you can't play the new Gunshooters IV: Shoot For The Moon on your PlayStation.
Call of Duty
Like it or not, Call of Duty is one of the biggest gaming franchises in the world, and certainly one of the crown jewels that Microsoft was most excited to scoop up in this deal. Based on Microsoft's previous behavior, however — the company still sells Minecraft on PlayStation consoles, despite owning the IP — it seems unlikely that the company will lock out PS gamers from Warzone anytime soon.
However, we wouldn't be surprised at all if future Call of Duty entries like Modern Warfare became Xbox and PC exclusive. Given the blockbuster nature of this deal, such a move would affect 2023's entry in the annual franchise at the earliest. Frankly, COD is such a moneymaker for Activision Blizzard that it may make sense to keep selling it on every console, so this one remains up in the air.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
From Software's samurai masterpiece Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice was technically published by Activision Blizzard, so does that mean that Bill Gates can use Hidetaka Miyazaki as a footrest whenever he wants? Unfortunately for Microsoft, it seems like the answer is no.
While the copyright for video games are usually owned by the publisher, it seems that From Software decided to keep ownership of Sekiro for themselves. (However, it might mean that Activision Blizzard might have certain rights to a hypothetical Sekiro 2 or the like, so perhaps we might see some From/Microsoft collabs in the future after all.) From presumably learned this lesson from both Demon's Souls and Bloodborne, which are both published and owned by Sony. That's actually why Dark Souls is called Dark Souls and not "Demon's Souls 2," but hey, we can't all be rabid FromSoft fanboys.
If you're a big Baal fan, you probably already know that Diablo IV has been in development since at least 2019, with no set release date in sight. On-paper, this is exactly the sort of upcoming high-profile game that Microsoft would want to make an Xbox exclusive, as it's unlikely to launch before the merger closes in 2023.
However, when you consider that Blizzard previously announced that the game would come out for PS4 back at its 2019 reveal, the likelihood of Xbox exclusivity appears slim. In general, Microsoft tends to err on the side of honoring those sorts of promises rather than retracting them, so it's likely that it comes to PlayStation in some form or fashion. However, the company could always decide otherwise.
Hey, did you forget that there's a game called Overwatch 2 in development? We certainly did. While details on the sort-of-sequel, sort-of-expansion-pack to the hit hero shooter have been a bit thin on the ground recently, it is still one of the most anticipated games of the next few years. It seems unlikely that Overwatch 2 will come out before the merger closes in 2023, which means it could easily become an exclusive.
However, as in the case of Diablo, Overwatch 2 was previously announced for PS4 and Nintendo Switch, which would seem to indicate that it won't be an Xbox exclusive quite yet. Then again, there's nothing that says that Microsoft has to honor this platform announcement, since it's already almost three years old, so let's not draw any firm conclusions.
'90s kids across the world rejoiced when Activision released the excellent remake Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 back in 2020, and many fans hoped that it would herald a bold new future for the franchise. Unfortunately, Activision Blizzard poured cold water on those embers when the company decided to reassign Vicarious Visions to the Diablo 2 remake Resurrected (and subsequently Diablo 4) after the Warcraft 3: Reforged debacle early in 2020.
Still, there have apparently been teases by the Tony Hawk Twitter account that have led some fans to believe that the remake might add the levels from Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 soon, which would be great, because it's the best one. If such an update were to occur, it would presumably come to the PlayStation version of 1 + 2 as well. As for the chances of a new entry in the series — which probably would be an Xbox exclusive — that seems rather remote right now, but you never know!
World of Warcraft
Given that World of Warcraft remains a PC exclusive, and Activision Blizzard will continue to operate independently according to today's announcement, your precious WoW will remain unbothered by the big green hands of Microsoft. However, if you've been playing since the early '00s, perhaps it's best to take a break anyway?
Spyro, Crash Bandicoot
You might have fond memories of playing through the original Crash Bandicoot and Spyro trilogies on your OG PlayStation, but in the near future the two franchises might find themselves on the other end of the console wars. Toys for Bob, the studio behind the Skylanders series — as well as 2020's Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time — is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Activision Blizzard.
While that probably doesn't bode well for the PlayStation future of both franchises, Toys for Bob isn't actually working on any mascot platformers right now; in fact, the studio was turned into a Call of Duty: Warzone support studio like Raven Software at the end of 2020. It's unclear if that might change anytime soon, but if it does, you probably shouldn't expect to see your furry or scaly friends on a PlayStation console anytime soon.
Heretic + Hexen
As far as we know, there are currently no plans to revive the fantasy FPS franchise Heretic + Hexen, which last saw a release in the late '90s. (Shocking, we know.) However, given that Microsoft now owns Raven Software, perhaps this would be an opportune time for the studio to cast off its Call of Duty shackles and return to the franchises that made it famous. We now live in the era of successful "boomer shooter" revivals like Dusk, Ultrakill, and the Hexen-inspired Amid Evil, so why not?
Okay, let's be honest: this isn't going to happen. However, if it does, you probably won't see Heretic 3 on a PlayStation, that's for sure. (In fact, you won't see it at all.)
At least we have Ziggurat 2.