Microsoft should revive these 5 Activision Blizzard franchises

Spyro Reignited Trilogy
Spyro Reignited Trilogy (Image credit: Activision Blizzard)

In a surprise deal that nobody saw coming, Microsoft has announced its plans to buy Activision Blizzard for Xbox. Assuming there aren't any issues with the finalization of the acquisition, Microsoft will own the rights to massive gaming franchises such as Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, and Diablo (among others) by late 2022 or early 2023. The internet has exploded with discussion about what this means for Xbox and gamers in general, but while many are focusing on the biggest IPs that Activision Blizzard brings to the table, I think it's equally interesting to think about how Microsoft could revive or improve support for some of Activision Blizzard's more niche franchises.

These games may not be as popular as behemoths like Call of Duty, and a few of them haven't seen new releases or substantial updates in quite a while. However, they bring a lot to the table in regard to creativity and variety, and there's no reason why they couldn't perform well after some new releases or much-needed updates. Here are five Activision Blizzard franchises that Microsoft should revive moving forward.

HeXen

Source: id Software (Image credit: Source: id Software)

What if DOOM, but with magic? That's essentially HeXen, an oft-forgotten 1995 shooter from developer Raven Software that never got quite as popular as DOOM but was arguably just as fun. Using a combination of deadly spells and powerful weapons, it's up to the player to take down the Serpent Rider Korax before he destroys the world. During gameplay, players could also unlock hidden items, secret pathways, and new locations within HeXen's levels by thoroughly searching each area. Some of HeXen's levels were criticized for being a little too complicated, but ultimately, the game's exploration and puzzle elements made it stand out from the crowd.

Raven Software was acquired by Activision in 1997, and since HeXen's publisher, id Software, is now owned by Microsoft thanks to its acquisition of ZeniMax Media in 2020, both the publishing and development rights for HeXen are in Microsoft's hands.

Both DOOM 2016 and DOOM Eternal have proven that with quality level design, innovative gameplay additions, and excellent presentation, old-school shooter franchises like HeXen can absolutely succeed in the modern gaming market. Therefore, I'd love to see a new HeXen game.

Singularity

Source: Activision Blizzard (Image credit: Source: Activision Blizzard)

Another Raven Software title that slips under many radars is 2010's Singularity, a dark and unsettling shooter that combines the gloomy tension of F.E.A.R. with puzzle elements reminiscent of BioShock or Half-Life. Singularity's unique mechanic is the player's Time Manipulation Device, or TMD — a tool that can be used for aging enemies into dust, rewinding time to repair broken objects, and more. Mastering the TMD is essential, as using it effectively is the only way you'll be able to even the odds against the game's various enemy types.

Singularity also has an enjoyable, well-written story that most players will like, which is something that isn't always common for the shooter genre. Characters are likeable and fairly nuanced, and the game's Cold War experimentation plot has some genuinely interesting twists, too. There are even multiple endings that the player can get depending on their actions in the game's final moments.

It would be great to see Microsoft return to Singularity in the future, either with a sequel or a remake. Despite being overshadowed by other shooters at the time, Singularity is nevertheless an excellent game that used time travel in a creative and exciting way.

Prototype

Source: Activision Blizzard (Image credit: Source: Activision Blizzard)

Open-world games are all the rage these days, which is why I'd love to see the Prototype series make a return. In it, you play as Alex Mercer, a man with no memories of his past who can inexplicably transform parts of his body into blades, claws, whips, shields, and more. Each form you take has unique advantages and disadvantages, and you'll need to make use of all of them as you explore New York City and attempt to unravel the mystery of your creation.

Much like Rico Rodriguez's grappling hook, parachute, and wingsuit in the Just Cause series, the shape-shifting mechanics of Prototype make exploring its open world an absolute joy. Some of the missions can get tedious, and there's a massive difficulty spike towards the end of the game, but on the whole, Prototype has aged well for a game that came out in 2009. The 2012 sequel Prototype 2 fixed these issues while keeping what made the original great, making it one of the best open-world games released towards the end of the Xbox 360 era.

Fans of the original Prototype games have been hoping for a Prototype 3 for a long time now, so hopefully Microsoft is willing to greenlight a third entry. Microsoft should also make an effort to fix Prototype and Prototype 2 on PC, as neither game runs well on Windows 10 or Windows 11.

Spyro

Source: Activision Blizzard (Image credit: Source: Activision Blizzard)

While Crash Bandicoot got some love in 2020 with Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time, the Spyro the Dragon series hasn't had a new game since 2008 (not counting the Spyro Reignited Trilogy remake). This is disappointing, as the series' lighthearted tone and creative blend of action, exploration, and 3D platforming have made it a favorite of platformer fans.

The developers at Toys for Bob have hinted that a new Spyro game may be in the works before, but it has been over a year since then, and there hasn't been any communication about a potential "Spyro 4." Therefore, it's impossible to ascertain whether the game is being actively developed or whether the developers have put Spyro on the backburner.

Now that Microsoft will soon own Activision, I'm hoping that it has a desire to publish new Spyro games in the future. Given how popular the Spyro series is, I believe it's time for the charming purple dragon to go on some new adventures.

Heroes of the Storm

Source: Activision Blizzard (Image credit: Source: Activision Blizzard)

There are few multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games on the market that can challenge the dominance of League of Legends and DOTA 2, but the free-to-play title Heroes of the Storm is (or, perhaps was) one of them. The game's large hero pool, map variety, and tight teamwork-focused gameplay mechanics made it a popular alternative to "the big two" for a long time, but after Activision Blizzard decided to scale back Heroes of the Storm development in late 2018, fans have been frustrated with the game's infrequent content additions and the rarity of important bug fixes and balance patches.

Activision Blizzard's neglect of Heroes of the Storm has become something of a meme for the game's community, and these days, it's common to see jokes about the situation at the top of the Heroes of the Storm subreddit. Others feel more cynical, with some even believing that Activision Blizzard will shut down the game at some point in the next few years.

Once Microsoft's acquisition deal closes, it would be awesome to see Activision Blizzard developers return to Heroes of the Storm and help the game make a comeback with lots of new content and more frequent patches with support from Microsoft (Master Chief in Heroes of the Storm, anyone?). It would also be cool to see Heroes of the Storm come to Xbox consoles, which would make it one of the best Xbox games for MOBA fans.

Final thoughts

While it's natural to focus on big names like Call of Duty, Overwatch, and World of Warcraft when discussing Microsoft's acquisition of Activision Blizzard, it's important to consider smaller, less popular franchises too. With the additional resources and talent that Microsoft's swelling Xbox family can provide, all five of these IPs could thrive in the modern market and offer players a compelling gameplay experience. That potential is exciting to think about, and I hope Microsoft capitalizes on it moving forward.

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.

25 Comments
  • Rest assured MS has all of those in mind.
    MS is serious about reaching beyond core gamers so Spyro and Crash are at the top of tbeir list.
    HeXen is ripe for a reboot: when Bethesda released Fallout 3 many called it "oblivion with guns" so a "Doom with spells" is fair game. And if Raven is busy elsewhere, Doom can roll it out easy. The OP should have dug deeper, though: I'm thinking PITFALL could do with a reimagening.
    After all, Activision goes back to the ATARI VCS days. Some of those games might be useful for mobile, too.
  • Exactly what I was thinking, many old school games like Pitfall would be great mobile games.
  • Yup.
    But PITFALL would also work as a story-based third person action game.
    Remember PITFALL: THE LOST EXPEDITION?
    https://pitfall.fandom.com/wiki/Pitfall_Harry
    He's even a family guy with a kid (good for coop).
    Activision has been leaving money on the table.
  • In fact, since Harry is an old school explorer setting him in the early 20th and the grandson Harold III (say a mixed faced african) in the middle (Nazis soviets, etc) and further conservationist decendants into the present opens the door for all kinds of games. With a black sheep line of plunderers to provide antagonists. The stuff writes itself. Doesn't even need a big game.
  • Pitfall inspired Tomb Raider which inspired Uncharted which inspired the Tomb Raider reboots which can now inspire Pitfall for a new generation. This could be The Initiative's next game after the Perfect Dark reboot (especially if and when they acquire Crystal Dynamics).
  • Don't forget to revive Banjo!
  • Or, for that matter, Kameo.
  • Just curious, what or where are those resources to do that reviving.
    Check all the details about Activision been unable to polish games, constantly pushing back dates for new and improvement of existing ones due to no resource, bad project and programs management, Investors short term return mindset as reported on this site today?
    "Microsoft is buying Activision Blizzard: What this means for Xbox"
    "Microsoft buying Activision Blizzard is not something to celebrate"
    "Experts weigh in on Microsoft's Activision Blizzard acquisition"
    "Activision Blizzard games will come to Xbox Game Pass after acquisition" First thing is to put the new acquisition house in order, provide stable, ethical work environment, bring them into MSFT culture.
    Understand status of all their projects, put analytics into play to determine priorities, Allocate and or acquire more resources into those priorities.
    By the time acquisition closes (18 months from now), they might be halfway, another 18 months after closing the deal might get them where there is clear picture of the acquisition can do, then we can start talking about reviving...
    So, I say 3 years min.
  • Things can be done simultaneously - as after all every business needs quarterly + yearly business cycles along 5 year, 10 year milestone goals. If people are going to get onboard with changes, they also need to know where they stand in the long run. So, going through the dev rights and publishing rights to see what can be spun into new projects is the right call.
  • The resources will come from reprioritizing and rescheduling.
    If the staff hangs on until the deal finalizes they'll get better management.
    The single biggest problem at Activision is they've fallen in love with COD as an annualized product so everybody is dragged into supporting that. As a side effect, they've fallen into "the mythical Man month" trap. (Look it up.)
    Also COD makes tons of money, yes, but Kotick has been misreading the sales charts. If you look at 2021 sales, the top two sellers are both COD editions. They are competing with themselves. Instead of riding each game through a normal life cycle and monetizing the long tail, they are wasting resources and burning out the fans. And in letting schedule determine release they end up with a lesser product and harried staff.
    Over simplifying, if Spencer moves COD to a two year cycle, he'd be doubling the time they monetize COD with DLC, microtransactions, etc, while freeing entire studios to do other stuff. Maybe HeXen as a "COD with spells". Even one COD release eats up enough resources for two or more "lesser" games.
    Finally, the economics of subscriptions are, like free to play, focused on engagement rather than on asking players to open up the wallet over and over. And if COD has shown over and over is people play thd thing for months on end. An "experiment" to keep an eye on is HALO online. MS is monitoring player sensitivity to prices and the game's "stickiness" so they'll have data to compare with once the deal finalizes.
    Giving up some COD retail sales in favor of lower production costs and longer post sale monetization m ay actually make COD more profitable.
    As to the "house cleaning" it actually has been ongoing for months. Just quietly, to save face, and only at the lower levels. Kotick was never going to fire himself. He'll leave on his terms, by cashing in. So no, it won't take three years to change culture.
    It will take three years to see the first products at retail (COD 2025) unless MS take COD exclusive right away. I'm thinking that MS won't but that unless something goes wrong with Halo, they'll follow a similar model: annual campaign expansions/Big DLC with a free to play online that goes on indefinitely. Less uofront COD revenue from the release window offset with bigger post sale revenue and much lower production costs and monetization of neglected properties by misused studios and *other* teams. Consider: what might DOUBLE FINE make of SPYRO?
    The sale will be good for players and staff as well as MS.
    It would take a lot of mistakes for it not to.
  • Hexen, definitely Hexen. That game was all kinds of awesome. In fact, I'm going to jump on GoG now and see if I can pick it (and Heretic) up again.
  • Yeah, loved this when it was new in the 90's. I remember exactly where I used to sit to play that with a buddy.
  • Spencer called it out. He loved it as a kid.
  • Battlezone!!!! Please!!!!! Man that was such a great alternate history story.
  • Microsoft owns Spiro, blinx, crash, concor, banjo, fusion frenzy, viva pinata, minecraft (Steve), the battle toads, and others I'm sure I'm forgetting. This is a very good all star cast to test out what ips people want to return. For example how about a battle toads 16bit side scroller for mobile or a smash bros or cart style game morelike sonic all stars (which just got series x treatment so... There is obviously a market there). A multi ip game like this could definately drive interest. How about fusion frenzy 3 staring the above cast with the three frenzy characters each now with one special move. Let's do this Microsoft
  • Man, now I really, really want a Smash Bros style game.
  • @Sin Ogaris Microsoft definitely has the character roster for it.
  • @TheRealBatman Don't forget, Microsoft also has the Killer Instinct Characters too.
  • Pitfall all day please
  • I want re-releases of the skylanders games but this time with no need for the figures. Just let us play with the characters we want straight from the game.
  • I always found it sad how Activision acquired Bizarre Creations in 2007 and then closed them down in 2011. They developed four Project Gotham Racing games for Xbox and then Blur for Activision. Very unlikely but it would be amazing if they were to somehow be revived. Liverpool in England has played a big part in video game development and it would be great for Microsoft to have a presence there.
  • I really hope Heroes of the Storm gets more resources in the future. The game is truly an underappreciated gem and it deserves better than Activision's atrocious management.
  • I would love to see Singularity and Prototype return. I always thought of Prototype as a multi-platform version of Playstation's Infamous and since neither one has had a new game in a while, this would be a very popular announcement.
  • This article needs a complete list of all the franchises (2+ games) and a separate list of one-shots with big potential. Top of my head:
    - King's Quest
    - Blur
    - Geometry Wars
    - Prototype
    - Gun
    - Tenchu
    - Pitfall
    - Tony Hawk And those are just the Activision ones; they also have a big list of properties from their current studios, especially Rare and Bethesda. Conker, Kameo, Viva Piñata, etc. Three things to remember:
    1- MS doesn't lack the big high profile (long and expensive development) franchises any more, but Gamepass can benefit from small and mid-size, simpler and cheaper games. Geometry Wars. PC and Console vefsions of the KING games. The older blizzard games. 2- MS has 35 studios with well over 40 (50?) teams working different projects but tbey also have MS Gaming Publishing where outside studios can bring *their* ideas or, more importantly, MS can hire independents to work on their dormant IPs. Finally, they can buy specific dormant IPs from other studios. I would suggest buying APSHAI and them rest of the classic EPYX games) from whoever owns for repurposing. As in... 3- A lot of tbe older IP is suitable for mobile but also some of tbe mobile IP can spawn PC/CONSOLE derivatives aligned with their brand. Platformers, side scrollers, etc. MS doesn't need to buy any more studios to bring in new content to Gamepass monthly.
    But they do need to ramp up faster.
  • If Prototype 2 is back on the market and can run on Windows 11, I will buy 10 of it to share it. A lot of people couldn't stand that those days system couldn't run the prototype 1 or 2.