In recent years we’ve seen a bit of a consolidation in game franchises. The industry sphere is enormous, so there’s plenty to go around. Which is to say that it’s not as bad as the music industry, which is famously dominated by less than half a dozen publishers.

But, we edged into new territory when Microsoft, hot off the heels of acquiring Bethesda publisher Zenimax for $7.5bn, today acquired Acitvision Blizzard for a reported $68.7bn. Official press release is scant on details, naturally.

The good

As a PC owner with GamePass, this means I’m more likely to get freebies from Activision Blizzard’s vast, deep and wonderful library from the past. Moreover, I won’t have to deal with yet another launcher in the form of Battle.net, which is arguably one of the first launchers to have been conceived from yesteryear.

Bobby Kotick is a menace to the gaming industry, and has been for years. Surrounding him is a slew of sycophantic execs who seem dependent enough on his power to do anything to keep him at the top seat. But with Phil Spencer and Microsoft oversight, I don’t see how Kotick and his team could remain in-place. Although this probably means a victory for Kotick financially, as a gamer who empathises with employees at Activision Blizzard, this could be a net benefit for folks there.

Almost all of the major franchises owned by the dual-publisher house are amazing. There are genuinely few duds in there. Think of how vast it is, from legendary titles like StarCraft and Diablo through to Guitar Hero, Call of Duty and everything in-between. Imagining some of these reimagined with a wider player base is drool-worthy. Seeing Microsoft step in to refresh the technology, leadership and thought process behind some of these franchises would be game-changing. And returning them to GamePass is so good that it reminds me that it’s outrageous that we still don’t have a chefs kiss emoji.

The bad

Big franchises like Call of Duty make money on annual releases. So Microsoft will need to find a way to restructure without killing a cash-cow, presumably. Moreover, fixing something like COD or Overwatch is going to take time. And fans are fickle, so will want to see success soon. Even though nothing really major would likely change this year, we’re probably going to hear grumbling online.

Even worse is if you’re a fan of any title published by ActiBlizzard on any console other than Xbox or PC. There’s a risk here that Microsoft pull the plug on some of these titles on Playstation or Switch, despite being potentially risky for the bottom line.

Call of Duty, for example, has a player base of somewhere between 2 million, up to 6 million, depending on time-of-year, day of the week, etc. But in Europe, 70% of sales tend to skew towards PlayStation consoles. It would be an enormous risk to assume all of those players would jump ship to the Xbox or PC anytime soon. Time will tell, but I have no faith in Microsoft feeling like it’s worth publishing titles on rival consoles, even despite Phil Spencer openness to such an idea in the past.

The ugly

Consolidating the games industry is bad for everyone. Sure, there are silver linings and benefits of such a company being acquired given it’s recent past. But overall, an acquisition of this size, after similarly large acquisitions in the industry of late, feel wrong. Zynga being acquired recently was something I wrote about, and noted it as being a rival to King, which technically, is now owned by Microsoft.

Microsoft have a market cap of $2tn. They can swing that cheque around in many ways, and probably do regularly just to dip their toe in the waters to see what they could get. But at some point, these deals start to feel anti-competitive.

This deal is tantamount to Disney buying Fox (for similar money, too!) after buying Marvel and Star Wars. It’s a consolidation. Sure, on the surface the product is great, easy to access and with some restructuring, old franchises get fresh paint. But long-term, this is pure anti-competitive and becomes a blocker for the market overall, offering less choice to the consumer.

Put it another way, in one fell swoop, Microsoft now owns both Spyro the Dragon and Crash Bandicoot. Two characters that, to my mind, are synonymous with the PlayStation brand. Just like they also own Banjo Kazooie, a character just as synonymous with Nintendo.


Time will tell how this turns out. It’ll also tell if government’s step in to check whether this represents a bad move for business, but Microsoft is publicly traded, and big enough to shirk any such concerns.

At the good end, I look forward to getting access to great content through GamePass on PC. On the more worrying end, I’m concerned for my friends who play COD on PS5 and how this maps the future of the industry.