It's finally over. 22 months of hardcore regulatory wrastlin' later, Microsoft now owns Activision-Blizzard-King, the biggest publisher in gaming history.
Activision is known for Call of Duty, Candy Crush, Diablo, and World of Warcraft. Fewer people know about the firm's extensive 40-year back catalog, though. People of a certain age remember classics like Singularity, StarCraft, Guitar Hero, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, and Tenchu. Others may recall more recent greats like Heroes of the Storm, and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Perhaps you're even old enough to remember games like Pitfall or Blackthorne. Well and truly, between Activision and Blizzard, the back catalog is truly extensive — and sadly, much of it is dormant, sacrificed on the behemoth that is Call of Duty.
Many of the studios tasked with developing games like Heroes of the Storm, StarCraft, or Crash Bandicoot have been absorbed by other efforts at Activision in recent years, as the company focused on placating its shareholders. To that end, many fanbases have been waiting, and hoping for Microsoft to come in and revive some of these franchises. Microsoft has shown itself to be interested in diverse and potentially niche games for its Xbox Game Pass efforts, given the fact Age of Empires, Killer Instinct, and even artsy games like Pentiment all got greenlit under the Xbox banner. Perhaps Microsoft will do the same for some of Activision's long-time dormant properties as well.
To that end, we asked Windows Central readers on X (Twitter) to share their hopes, dreams, and fantasies for the big Xbox + Activision love-in. You can continue to drop your suggestions in the comments section here too.
Obviously, the potential is absolutely gargantuan. Any of these immense desires will probably take years to reach fruition, if at all. Still, it's fun to dream.
IP revivals: StarCraft, Singularity, Tony Hawk, Guitar Hero, and more
The biggest and most frequent requests revolved around, of course, franchise revivals. As noted in the intro, Activision is sitting on a goldmine of dormant intellectual property (IP), many of which could easily expand to new genres, new mediums, and new games.
One of the most frequent requests revolved around Guitar Hero. Outgoing CEO Bobby Kotick hinted at a Guitar Hero revival during an internal meeting, lauding Microsoft's "resources" as being catalytic in reviving the franchise. Guitar Hero was a pioneering rhythm game of the Xbox 360 generation. Players would utilize plastic guitar peripherals and learn through dozens upon dozens of licensed songs in online and offline play. Owing in part to music licensing complexity and perhaps franchise fatigue, Guitar Hero eventually went away like many trends before it. There's clearly an opportunity to bring it back for the TikTok age, though, and perhaps that's one franchise that will likely see a big revival.
Guitar Hero revival, previous Spider-Man games, Crash Bandicoot (Crash Bash?), some more I can’t think of off the top of my head!October 14, 2023
A lot of the requests also revolved around existing games that perhaps just need a bit more love. Overwatch 2 is a big point of contention for Blizzard fans these days. Many were scratching their heads at the need for a sequel in the first place, but Blizzard promised that it would include a full campaign story mode with cool PvE abilities and extraction-style gameplay to make up for it. Unfortunately, it ended up on the chopping block, along with a lot of community good will with it.
Overwatch still has a huge player base, despite everything, but plenty of people discussed untapped potential in my thread.
I want to see @PlayOverwatch bigger and better. Campaigns, spinoffs, collaborations, multiple games, whatever it takes. Gives them all the time, money and resources. Let them make an anime, tv show, movie or whatever.Give them everything.October 14, 2023
Various other requests for franchise revivals filtered through the thread as well. Prototype was a frequent request. The violent, open-world anti-superhero game was popular in its day. The wanton destruction and sandbox violence was unlike anything offered at the time, putting players in control of a Venom-like anti-hero who could grow hideous eldritch appendages. Many people were also crying out for a StarCraft reboot, as well as Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, Crash Bandicoot, Spyro, the time-warping Singularity FPS, and much more.
Prototype reboot/remake. That game just screams out to be made!October 14, 2023
Many of the requests revolved around existing games that are still supported. World of Warcraft was a frequent topic of discussion, from people requesting Microsoft remove the subscription fee, to requests to build a single player Warcraft RPG. Many of the requests were about moving some of Blizzard's PC-exclusive catalogue to Xbox consoles, too.
World of Warcraft, StarCraft, Heroes of the Storm to Xbox, expanded
Many users were asking for the revival of StarCraft, Blizzard's sci-fi strategy franchise that has largely been dormant since the final StarCraft 2 expansion. StarCraft remains a wildly popular franchise, particularly in Korea, where it essentially pioneered the expansion of esports to the mainstream.
Blizzard hasn't really done anything with StarCraft in recent years, despite the breadth of the game's lore and potential to be expanded to other genres. A StarCraft FPS makes complete and total sense, as well as a new StarCraft mainline game. The main problem is that the StarCraft team responsible for making the franchise great has largely scattered to the winds. Microsoft worked hard to build teams to take over stewardship of its popular Age of Empires RTS franchise, however, and I believe it's no accident that StarCraft was repeatedly mentioned by Microsoft in various interviews and trailers revolving around the deal.
The expansion of Warcraft and Starcraft in to more games. There's so much lore and potential that some great games could be made. A GoW style Starcraft would be insane.October 14, 2023
Many of the requests also discussed how StarCraft, and Warcraft could both be adapted to other genres. A melee action game in the vein of God of War and a third-person shooter in the vein of Gears of War would be obvious projects to greenlight.
Many players also asked for World of Warcraft, StarCraft, and Heroes of the Storm to expand from PC to Xbox consoles, and even mobile. Age of Empires has proven that core RTS can work well on consoles, and while they will always be at home on PC, Microsoft has an opportunity to introduce a new audience to the genre here. Xbox supports mouse and keyboard play already, too.
Heroes of the Storm presents a unique opportunity as well. League of Legends: Wildrift and Pokemon Unite both prove the model of MOBAs that work across touch and gamepad gameplay both. Heroes of the Storm may have stumbled in its attempts to compete with League of Legends and DOTA2 on PC, but there's a real oppportunity for it to gain a new audience now. Heroes of the Storm on Xbox and mobile devices, complete with character access benefits via Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, and cross-over characters from franchises like Halo and DOOM — it's plain to see.
WoW on XboxHeroes of the storm revived for XboxCan we finally get a smash clone?Massive influx of KI guest fightersSeeing Activision studios doing things other than being cod supportOctober 14, 2023
Heroes of the Storm console revivalOctober 14, 2023
How would Microsoft find all the staff to work on these potential StarCraft shooters and Warcraft RPGs? Well, another frequent discussion point revolved around Call of Duty, and its thousands of developers locked into continuing the franchise.
Less Call of Duty, more variety
Call of Duty is an absolute behemoth. Thousands of developers work to ensure Call of Duty Warzone, Call of Duty Mobile, and the mainline Call of Duty titles keep generating millions of dollars for the Activision machine. Increasingly, though, discussions revolve around whether or not it's possible that there's just too much Call of Duty.
Studios like Raven, High Moon, Beenox, and others have been absorbed into working on Call of Duty, to the detriment of their creativity and unique games the teams previously worked on. That's not to suggest they're any less passionate about their work on Call of Duty — far from it. The quality of their work speaks for itself, given that Call of Duty is more popular than ever. Still, it's tantalizing to imagine Raven Software making a new Singularity, or a new Transformers game from High Moon.
A little creative freedom and budget allocated to the support studios working on CoD annually so that they could either try producing new IP or working on established ones.I'd like the legacy Tenchu games to receive modern remakes with a focus on stealth, combat and visuals.October 15, 2023
For Xbox to finally make activision work on new ip tired of the same ipOctober 14, 2023
Despite many calling for less Call of Duty, plenty of others were calling for more Call of Duty — that is, more classic Call of Duty.
Microsoft revived the Call of Duty Xbox 360 servers over the summer, and I have it on good authority that we could see Call of Duty titles from yesteryear appear in Xbox Game Pass sooner, rather than later. What about all those other games, though?
Battle.net takes over the PC Xbox app, more backward-compatible games
A lot of the feedback discussed Xbox's platform features, and what the integration with Activision-Blizzard's systems may look like. I've previously argued that Battle.net, ABK's primary PC launcher, should become the default platform for Microsoft on PC, many others seemed to agree.
In addition, people were calling on Microsoft to expand the Xbox backward compatible games list to include classic Activision titles. Many older Activision games never actually made their way to Xbox back compat. It's unclear whether or not it's even possible. Previously Microsoft hinted that they had pretty much landed every single game that was feasible, owing to platform limitations, licensing issues, and more.
another BC drop with some more ABK and Bethesda games (including some licensed games that could go unlisted), everything put on Game Pass, Blizzard's PC and king's mobile stuff coming to console, etc. I also want battle net to fold into the xbox app to become more robust.October 14, 2023
Microsoft could, however, give some existing Xbox 360 back compat games the remaster / upscale treatment. Whether using technology like FPS Boost to give older games a new layer of polish, or resolution enhancements, there's plenty of things Microsoft could do to enhance some existing games.
Spyro Trilogy with FPS BoostOctober 14, 2023
From Crash Bandicoot to Spyro to StarCraft to Singularity and beyond, the sheer volume of potential is unfathomable, and I know Microsoft has already been drawing up plans for what it wants to see through first.
What do YOU want to see?
Beyond the games and what we personally want to see, honestly, the most important thing is that Activision-Blizzard's integration with Microsoft goes smoothly. I know from personal experience, that corporate takeover mergers can be extremely painful, with overlapping departments getting hit with layoffs, mass uncertainty, and whatever else. Microsoft surely has its work cut out to waylay the fears and concerns of Activision staff. I doubt there will be any major upheaval in the near term besides CEO Bobby Kotick leaving in early 2024. Microsoft has an opportunity to improve things, listen to staff concerns, and make enhancements where necessary.
Activision-Blizzard was the subject of investigations into its workplace culture in yesteryear. I've been told by multiple ABK sources that things are far better than they previously were and that the studios are generally optimistic and looking to the future. Before games, people come first — and Microsoft has a chance to show that it won't be the evil overlord it's often painted as in the wider discourse.
The scale of Microsoft's opportunity for Activision-Blizzard cannot be overstated here. Xbox customers stand to gain a mountain of value via Xbox Game Pass. Long-suffering fanbases may see their favorite franchises revived in Microsoft's genre diversity push. Developers will hopefully see boosted resources and improved work-life balance policies. And a stronger Xbox will hopefully see boosted competition, as Microsoft looks to create a better gaming landscape on mobile, cracking open Apple and Google's dev-gouging duopoly.
What do YOU want to see out of all of this? Hit the comments, let's discuss!
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Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!
First, the elephant in the lobby: CALL OF DUTY.
Taking COD to two years between releases isn't just about freeing up Devs to be creative but about improving the COD ROI; as 2022 proved, the annual release caddence is leaving money on the table. By going to a two year cadence with four DLC releases the game can keep players engaged longer and increase lifetime revenue.
Think: fall release + spring & summer mid-sized DLC + big fall DLC + final spring DLC.
The reason COD has dragooned so many studios into COD support is that ACTIVISION has been fighting the MYTHICAL MAN-MONTH. Modern AAA games need four/five (and for new ip six or more) years. Doing it in three requires throwing in more bodies which complicates things which in turn requires more bodies. And crunch. Adds to the development cost and by reducing the active "shelf time" of each release reduces the revenue generation time.
By contrast, with three COD franchises under three studios, a two year cadence would give each studio six years for each release. Ample time to do all the work inhouse and maybe do a smaller project on the side.
So the matter of who revives the fallow franchises points to the same studios that created them in the first place. However...
...some franchises are old enough the original devs might not be around or needed elsewhere. And lets face it, HEXEN screams ID. And a WARCRAFT/STARCRAFT RPG could go to inXile or a team at Obsidian. Or a new studio or new teams within the existing teams.
(The turmoil in the industry means a lot of experienced devs are looking for new postings. Prime time to be staffing up to exploit the fallow ips.)
Second: it is fun to talk of reactivating fallow ips but it takes *time* to build those games. So the talk of using backwards compatibility tweaks and small/quick remakes (ACTIVISION MUSEUM!!) to get them back before gamer eyes makes ample sense. Second the motion.
Third and final: My own dream ACTIVISION revival? X-MEN.
Spider-man, smider-man, phooey. The best Marvel games to date are the two RAVEN Action RPGs Activision published: XMEN LEGENDS. By far. No need to reinvent anything. They were HD on the Original XBOX. Gameplay works as is. Easy to upscale, frame boost, and away you go. Just get the licenses back.
And right now, Disney needs money. So, Mr Spencer, please call thrm up, reactivate the license on those two and sign them up for a new trilogy, each a different genre, focusing on a different era/team of XMEN of which there are zillions.
So, to start:
A roguelike based on the recent IMMORTAL XMEN era is obvious. KING?
A third isometric action RPG is likewise required. RAVEN!
And a third, SAAS PvE game is begging to be born. RARE? BLIZZARD? ZENIMAX ONLINE?
On second thought, a twenty year deal would do nicely.
Oh, and along similar lines, call up WBD. Get a similar license for the LSH!
Whatever they do won't bear fruit until the next generation but when it does...