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Microsoft’s big acquisitions aren’t likely to dampen PC gaming

Microsoft's big acquisitions aren't likely to dampen PC gaming

After gobbling up Minecraft, The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Doom, and more, Microsoft has just become the future owner of Call of Duty, Diablo, Overwatch, and Warcraft. Xbox boss Phil Spencer’s consolidation of game studios is starting to look a bit like the film industry freeze that led to Disney’s simultaneous takeover of Marvel, Star Wars and Avatar. James Cameron, his crown jewel.

For now, I’d put my feelings about Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard somewhere on par with the discovery that Purina Dog Chow and Cheerios are both made by Nestlé: a slight unease that turns into resignation. It’s true that Disney’s Star Wars and Marvel movies feel basically the same, but is that a consequence of Disney ownership, or a consequence of them being the kind of massive mass-market phenomena that only a mass market company like Disney could own? It’s hard to worry that Spencer is somehow violating the sanctity of Call of Duty and Overwatch in a way that Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick wouldn’t. Would Cheerios be better if General Mills made them?

It’s not like Activision Blizzard is on a lunar course right now.

The amount of PC gaming heritage and game development power that Microsoft now possesses presents some concern. There’s a danger that decisions from the top at Microsoft will now be so overrepresented in PC gaming that they push it in directions we won’t necessarily like, subtly homogenizing the whole scene. What kind of post-release monetization schemes will Microsoft prefer, for example? Will he have a different attitude about WoW addons?

From the outside, it looks like the biggest commotion in World of Warcraft in recent years has to do with WoW Classic, a celebration of the MMO’s past. (Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

Again, though, I don’t want to overreact. It’s not like Activision Blizzard is on a lunar course right now. I don’t think even World of Warcraft diehards would claim it’s in its prime, and Call of Duty’s big hit Warzone was a second attempt (after Blackout’s Battle Royale mode Blackout Ops 4) to follow a trend someone else started years earlier. Nobody knows what the next big thing is, and against competitors like Riot, Epic, EA, newcomers like Amazon, which now has its own hit MMO in New World, and indie developers and modders who will continue to offer wildly new and exciting concepts, Microsoft is going to have to manage its acquisition well to make it worth the $69 billion it’s paying.