Xbox vs. PlayStation? How Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard deal may affect gamers

Published 2022-01-26 07:00

Unclear if iconic games will become exclusive to Microsoft consoles


Call of Duty? Candy Crush? Warcraft? Guitar Hero?

If you’ve never heard of these titles, it’s possible that you’re spending too much time outdoors.

But if you have, you might be one of the many gamers who could be affected by a new deal — one of the biggest business deals in gaming history, in fact.

On Jan. 18, U.S.-based tech company Microsoft, dished out $68.7 billion US to buy video game publisher Activision Blizzard, which makes all four of those games and more.

Activision Blizzard’s games exist on a variety of platforms today and we plan to continue supporting those communities moving forward. - Microsoft

The deal, which still requires a number of approvals before it can be completed, would push Microsoft past Nintendo to claim the title of  third largest video game company in the world, behind Sony and Tencent.

Microsoft says the deal will help beef up the roster of games available on its Xbox subscription service, while also giving it more titles to use in the metaverse.

But some say it raises questions about whether Activision Blizzard games will become exclusive to Microsoft’s Xbox, meaning gamers who use Sony’s PlayStation would have to switch consoles in order to play those titles.

What is exclusivity?

You may already be familiar with the concept of content exclusivity.

If your family subscribes to a streaming service, like Netflix or Amazon Prime, you may know that certain movies and series are exclusive to certain platforms.

Nearly every Marvel film, including Black Panther, is exclusive to Disney+. Some are wondering if Activision games will now become exclusive to Microsoft’s Xbox. (Image credit: Marvel)

In 2019, for example, Disney purchased Fox Entertainment for $70B US, just before launching its Disney+ streaming service.

The goal was to make most Fox productions, including Marvel movies, exclusive to its new platform.

Like Disney, Microsoft could make its newly acquired Activision Blizzard titles exclusive to its consoles and streaming platforms, drawing in a huge new base of customers.

Is Microsoft going exclusive with Activision Blizzard titles?

As of now, many Activision Blizzard titles are playable on multiple consoles: for example, the most recent Call of Duty game is playable on Xbox, PlayStation and PC. 

In a statement, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella promised the deal would help people play games “wherever, whenever and however they want.”

Does that mean Microsoft won't make its new games exclusive?

CBC Kids News asked Microsoft to clarify and a spokesperson sent a statement saying: “Activision Blizzard’s games exist on a variety of platforms today and we plan to continue supporting those communities moving forward.”

Mobile game Candy Crush is one of the titles acquired in the Microsoft deal with Activision Blizzard. It’s one of the most popular mobile games ever. (Image credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Earlier this week, a spokesperson for Sony told the Wall Street Journal they “expect that Microsoft will abide by contractual agreements and continue to ensure Activision Blizzard games are multiplatform.”

Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer confirmed in a tweet that the company intends to “keep Call of Duty on PlayStation,” but didn’t mention any other titles specifically.

This is good news for Call of Duty (COD) players on PlayStation, but it leaves some uncertainty around other Activision Blizzard games.

Also, the COD arrangement might not last forever.

Nicole Carpenter, senior reporter at video game publication Polygon, told CBC Kids News there could still be concerns around exclusivity once existing contracts expire.


Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer confirmed that Call of Duty will continue to be playable on PlayStation, at least in the short term. (Image credit: Patrik Stolarz/Getty Images)

In fact, Carpenter said that if the past is any indication, exclusivity could be part of Microsoft’s game plan — maybe not immediately, but at some point in the future.

“We’ve seen this before with Microsoft,” she said.

The company has acquired other gaming studios, like Bethesda, said Carpenter, and “Bethesda games, in the future, will likely be Xbox exclusives.”

Last year, Microsoft acquired titles like Skyrim and Starfield after striking a $7.5 billion US deal to buy video game publisher Bethesda. (Image credit: Bethesda Game Studios/Bethesda Softworks)

Indeed, the upcoming Starfield game, one of the titles acquired by Microsoft when it bought Bethesda, was recently confirmed to be an Xbox and PC exclusive.

How could this affect gamers?

If Activision Blizzard games become exclusive to Microsoft platforms, those who are used to playing these games on other consoles — like PlayStation — may have to buy a Microsoft console.

This is, of course, a huge bummer for those gamers.

However, Carpenter says the new deal is great news for others.

Those with an Xbox Game Pass, which is Xbox’s monthly subscription service, similar to Netflix, will get a whole new slate of hugely popular games at no extra cost.

“This acquisition means there are more games on Xbox Game Pass, and that’s pretty exciting for gamers,” she said.

“If you play a lot of games, that’s a really good deal, since games right now are $60-70 US on average.”

Carpenter also says that exclusivity could up the “cool factor” of the Xbox system.

“People are always talking about what console is better. Having the best games on their console is something both Sony and Microsoft are fighting for.”

So, what do you think?

With files from The Associated Press
TOP IMAGE CREDIT: Graphic design by Philip Street/CBC

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