Update October 18, 2023 at 8 AM ET: Xbox's Phil Spencer clarified in an interview that Microsoft isn't expecting to begin ABK game integrations until 2024 for Xbox Game Pass.
After 19 months of court cases, talks with regulators, and legal battles, Microsoft finally purchased Activision Blizzard. The deal, worth $69 billion, has been the talk of the tech world and the gaming industry since the acquisition was first announced in January 2022. Now that it's done, the discussion shifts to how soon the library of games from Activision Blizzard will make its way to Game Pass.
Statements from Activision Blizzard and precedent set by Microsoft's past gaming acquisitions give us some idea of when ABK titles will be added to Game Pass, but we still don't know a lot. Even comments from Phil Spencer, CEO Microsoft Gaming, only shed a bit of light on the company's plans.
How Activision Blizzard compares to Microsoft buying Bethesda
Activision Blizzard is the largest acquisition Microsoft has ever made, but it's far from the only purchase. Microsoft bought Bethesda in March 2021. Less than one week after that deal, 20 Bethesda titles were added to the Xbox Game Pass list. More games made their way to Microsoft's subscription service, including the complete mainline Fallout series in June 2022. Several classic Bethesda titles followed in August, including Quake 4.
With Bethesda entirely in the fold, Starfield launched earlier this year. It earned high praise and was called "one of Microsoft's best exclusive games in over a decade" in our Starfield review.
Microsoft will likely take a similar approach to the Activision Blizzard acquisition. Some titles will go to Game Pass sooner rather than later, while more will be added over time. Of course, some games may take much longer than others.
How Activision Blizzard is different than past acquisitions
Don't book off work yet, as you likely won't be able to get the biggest Activision Blizzard titles through Xbox Game Pass right away. In fact, you'll have to wait until at least 2024. Even then, titles will likely roll out gradually.
With the largest acquisition in Microsoft's history comes many complicated steps the tech giant will have to take. Call of Duty is one of the largest gaming franchises, so it is expectedly connected to several licensing deals. Before the CMA approved Microsoft buying Activision Blizzard, the latter discussed its plans for Call of Duty.
The gaming giant said it doesn't have immediate plans to offer Modern Warfare III or Diablo IV. Instead, Microsoft will likely look into adding premium games to Game Pass some time in 2024.
Activision Blizzard was vague even when stating that premium ABK games will likely come to Game Pass in 2024. There are likely a lot of agreements in place and discussions to be had before you see the entire ABK library on Game Pass.
Making sure Activision Blizzard doesn't hurt Game Pass
As strange as it may sound, Microsoft has to ensure that adding Activision Blizzard games to its subscription service does not hurt Game Pass. Microsoft has deals with third-party developers that would likely be unhappy if a sudden drop of Call of Duty or another popular ABK title undercut their own title on Xbox Game Pass.
Xbox Game Pass titles also get engagement bonuses, so Microsoft has to juggle things in that regard. If a sudden wave of Activision Blizzard titles dropped the engagement of games that are part of a deal with a third-party, that could affect that company's relationship with Microsoft and Xbox.
There's a good chance that Microsoft will stagger the release of ABK games. Curating titles rather than dropping them all at once would allow the tech giant to direct people toward specific games and help ensure a smooth integration of Activision Blizzard into Xbox Game Pass and other forms of Game Pass.
Why aren't Activision Blizzard games on Game Pass?
Spencer's comments echoed the sentiments of Activision Blizzards. The gaming executive also shared why Activision Blizzard games haven't been added to Game Pass yet.
"The regulatory process took so long, and frankly there was a lot of uncertainty in that process... that we weren’t able to get in and work with [Activision Blizzard] on that back catalog work. Now that the deal is closed, we’re starting that work, but there is work," said Spencer during an episode of the Xbox podcast.
"I think the Activision Twitter handle... did put out something that talked about 2024. I think that’s accurate. I would love it if there was some kind of secret celebration drop that’s coming in the next couple of weeks — there’s not."
Spencer emphasized that if Microsoft had plans to add ABK games to Game Pass this year that he'd "be straight with people" and announce what was on the way.
During that same podcast episode, Spencer said that while he doesn't plan to force studios to revive old IP, that he would be "all in" if a team wanted to bring back a franchise.
A massive opportunity for Xbox and Activision Blizzard
Corden has an entire piece breaking down how the Activision Blizzard deal closing creates a massive opportunity for Microsoft and gaming. Xbox and PC Game Pass could skyrocket with the addition of Activision Blizzard titles. Cloud gaming and mobile gaming should get a considerable boost as well. You just may have to wait a bit for your favorite games to make their way to Xbox Game Pass.
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Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at firstname.lastname@example.org.