On the 18th of January 2022, Microsoft announced that it intends to purchase Acitvision Blizzard Inc. The move concerns certain establishments, such as European Union regulators. However, should the deal go through, what will the future of gaming look like for the people it affects most; gamers?
While other articles will focus on the implications of the buyout on the gaming industry, on the whole, this piece will pay exclusive attention to how you, the gamers, are likely to be affected. Will this move, as Microsoft declares, make gaming more accessible and safer? Or is it likely to have other effects that neither company has mentioned thus far?
Why Microsoft wants to buy Activision Blizzard
Before we jump into what I usually term the ‘meat’ of the article, I’d like to dedicate a small section to the reasons behind the proposed purchase. Both Microsoft and Activision Blizzard – the force behind World of Warcraft – are willing participants; there doesn’t seem to be any publicly acknowledged contention between either party. The only point of contention, it seems, is that of the EU regulators, where words like ‘monopoly’ have been thrown around. But otherwise, the deal seems to be without contention.
There are numerous reasons for the acquisition, as highlighted by the New York Times a day after the acquisition announcement. As the article states, the future of the gaming industry looks more like a Hollywood production studio building up a compelling roster of well-known gaming franchises and titles. The current trend, therefore, is to try and acquire companies that know how to make compelling games, companies like Activision Blizzard.
Within recent years, Microsoft has expanded its focus within the gaming industry to more than just its Xbox console. In particular, Microsoft is shifting its focus to cloud gaming, an emerging technology that will see high-powered devices matter less and less. In this new world, people will be able to play AAA titles on anything from an old Android phone to a core-i3 laptop with nothing to show but an internet connection.
Acquiring a massive player in gaming development like Activision Blizzard will help Microsoft reach a far wider gaming audience than if it were to carry on on its own. This way, Microsoft gains the means to spread its influence in the gaming market even further, while also gaining access to some of the most compelling titles in the industry’s history.
The other big reason behind the acquisition might lie in the popularity of mobile gaming. Mobile gaming is one of the most popular types of gaming at the moment. In the announcement, Microsoft stated that ‘nearly 95% of all players globally’ enjoy gaming on mobile devices.
Microsoft doesn’t have a massive foothold in the mobile gaming market. However, Activision Blizzard does, in the form of King, the game maker behind Candy Crush and Diablo Immortal. If it acquires Activision Blizzard, Microsoft will have the vast mobile reach of developers like King under its ever-broadening umbrella.
What the Activision Blizzard acquisition means for gamers
There has been a lot of speculation lately as to whether the acquisition will result in better games or the ability to play certain titles on more platforms. Here is a short run-down of changes that we could see coming to the gaming industry should the deal go through.
More Microsoft mobile games
As previously established, Microsoft is not a major player in the dominant mobile gaming sector. However, we could see Microsoft stepping into the mobile gaming market with a massive advantage in the coming months or years. We could even see a mobile variant of the Xbox Game Pass, which would make it even easier and more affordable to enjoy AAA mobile gaming titles.
Increased Xbox Game Pass availability
It would be an oversight to mention how Xbox Game Passes could change mobile gaming without touching on how they’ve already revolutionized PC gaming. Essentially, a Game Pass lets you pay a small fee each month to play a vast catalog of PC games. This is opposed to other platforms or services, where you have to pay for each game individually.
Companies like Electronic Arts have since also started offering such a service with EA Play. Here, you pay a small fee each month and that entitles you to essentially the entire EA catalog. You can play anything without buying it outright. Subscription-based entertainment services are the future, as we’ve seen with streaming services like Netflix.
With the acquisition, the Xbox Game Pass will likely grow to be even more valuable than it already is. Gamers will likely be able to play games that, outside of the acquisition, are currently only playable on select platforms and services. The inclusion of these titles under the Xbox Game Pass banner will likely lead to the service gaining even more relevance in the gaming market.
More diverse platforms
We touched on cloud gaming and its importance to the future of gaming. Microsoft already plans on increasing its investments in cloud gaming services that essentially render platforms irrelevant. Basically, with cloud gaming, you’d be able to play a host of games supported by the vendor’s infrastructure, not that which you buy yourself.
You’ll be relying on Microsoft’s servers for game stability, instead of your own hardware. This is why we say that you’d theoretically be able to play games on anything from an old phone to an otherwise useless-for-gaming laptop. Imagine having all the titles, past and present, created by Activision Blizzard on this new ‘platform?’ How incredible would that be?
The future of gaming looks bright
Gaming is the largest form of entertainment at the moment. All in all, the industry is worth around $200 billion, if not more. During 2021 alone, video game releases went up by 64% compared to previous years. This industry is growing faster under the entertainment umbrella, and with all the new innovations in development, it shows no sign of slowing down.
Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard should make gaming more convenient, varied, affordable, and accessible for the growing numbers of people getting into gaming. While regulators are skeptical that this move will bring Microsoft one step closer to a monopoly over the gaming industry, gamers should be rooting for the move.
Not only should we see more previously PlayStation exclusives like God of War: Ragnarok coming to Xbox Game Pass and PC, but we’ll also likely see more mobile games functioning on an Xbox Game Pass system. However, it may also mean that current non-exclusive titles, like Call of Duty, might be taken away from consoles. We’ll touch on this in a future article.