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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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