Xbox won't force Activision developers to revive dormant franchises, but is eager to support teams that want to

Promotional screenshot of Killer Instinct
(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

What you need to know

  • In an interview with Windows Central, Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer talked about the nature of reviving older franchises. 
  • Spencer reiterated that he won't force a team to make something and that there has to be "passion" for a team to revisit an older franchise.
  • Spencer also says that he doesn't "bring up games just to tease to no end," and that if he repeatedly teases something "there's something there."

While Microsoft now has a veritable armada of older franchises in its control, teams aren't going to be required to bring something back arbitrarily. 

So says Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer, who spoke with Windows Central about a range of topics including Xbox Game Pass and the future of Activision Blizzard. During the interview, Spencer talked about the nature of bringing back franchises that haven't had games in a long time, pointing to prior succesful examples of teams reviving games like Age of Empires and Killer Instinct

"There has to be passion in the team behind the projects. That doesn't mean that the team has to be the original team, every time. I'm not one — and maybe this is just my approach — I'm not one to come in and take a franchise from a team and remove them from the discussion or development process on how something new gets built," Spencer says.

"You've seen from our history that we haven't touched every franchise that people would love us to touch — Banjo fans, I hear you," he adds. "But it is true that, when we find the right team, and the right opportunity, I love going back to revisit stories and characters that we've seen previously."

These statements reinforce comments Spencer previously made when asked about Microsoft's finalized acquisition of Activision Blizzard and the games the studios could be working on. At the time, Spencer said he was "all in" if there was a team that wanted to do something, but that he wouldn't be forcing anyone. 

What about bringing back older Blizzard games for Xbox?

StarCraft 2 has been in maintenance mode for years. (Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

Spencer also took note of Blizzard Entertainment, a developer that has multiple games in its history that haven't received new entries in a while, StarCraft chief among them.

"In the case of Blizzard games specifically, really what I'd want to do is work with Blizzard's leadership to see where they have passion. I say all this, but I'm not at all suggesting that Blizzard doesn't have passion for reviving franchises too, I know that from my visits to the team. They absolutely have the passion in this area," Spencer says. 

Intriguingly, Spencer says that he doesn't just bring up games to tease for no reason, and that "There's usually some kind of reconciliation of those hints later on."

"I'm not one to try and lead people on. It might not happen on the timeline that people would love, but usually when I tease, there's something there," he adds.

Analysis: Probably the best approach, but managing hype is tricky

Not requiring anyone to bring something back arbitrarily is assuredly a good plan to have, especially for Activision Blizzard, as it's going to take time for things to integrate and have the teams learn from each other. Leadership also has to work on issues like allowing unionization to take place at Activision Blizzard — which will begin early next year, for anyone keeping track — and that's going to be a lot to juggle. 

Of course, let the speculation continue as to what teases Spencer could be referring to. Personally, I'm hoping there are people passionate about StarCraft at Blizzard. Even if it's not a pure real-time strategy game, I'd love to see that world and some of those characters again. 

Samuel Tolbert
Freelance Writer

Samuel Tolbert is a freelance writer covering gaming news, previews, reviews, interviews and different aspects of the gaming industry, specifically focusing on Xbox and PC gaming on Windows Central. You can find him on Twitter @SamuelTolbert.