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Xbox boss Phil Spencer is "all in" on revisiting dormant Activision Blizzard franchises

"The amount of franchises that we now have in our portfolio is inspiring and daunting."

Chris Kerr, News Editor

October 18, 2023

3 Min Read
Phil Spencer speaking on the Official Xbox Podcast

Last week, Microsoft completed its $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard to provide Xbox Game Studios with a colossal shot in the arm.

The deal means Microsoft now owns studios like Infinity Ward, Raven Software, Sledgehammer Games, Toys for Bob, and Treyarch. It also makes the Xbox maker the custodian of major franchises, including Call of Duty, Candy Crush, Overwatch, Diablo, Warcraft, Starcraft, World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, and Guitar Hero (to name but a few).

Discussing what Microsoft intends to do with those heavy hitters and some of Activision Blizzard's lesser-spotted franchises during a recent appearance on the Official Xbox Podcast, Xbox boss Phil Spencer explained that if any studio under the Xbox umbrella is hellbent on revisiting a classic franchise, he'd back them to the hilt.

More specifically, Spencer said he'll be "all in" when a first-party team is ready to give a franchise their full attention, but added that Xbox is aware it needs to be a "great custodian" moving forward.

"The amount of franchises that we now have in our portfolio is inspiring and daunting. I feel we have to be a great custodian for the content that we touch. These are memories from people on different platforms, from different decades, and I want to make sure that when we're going back and visiting something, we do it with our complete ability," said Spencer.

"That means a motivated team that wants to go work on something and make a difference—not just create something for financial gain or create something for a PR announcement and not deliver on the promise."

Xbox won't rush revivals following Activision Blizzard merger

Spencer said that philosophy should extend to all of the franchises in the Xbox portfolio, not just those obtained following its latest merger. He claimed Microsoft has done an "okay job" at looking after its franchises so far, but suggested the company has sometimes been torn between creating something new and preserving what came before.

Notably, he believes the company's subscription service, Xbox Game Pass, might provide it with a unique outlet to kickstart a "revisited" initiative—Spencer quickly noted he "just made that name up"—that would allow Microsoft to pick a couple of franchises each year and thrust them back into the spotlight.

For Spencer, the bottom line is that revivals will only happen if developers are fully committed to an idea. The Xbox boss is about to embark on a tour of Activision Blizzard studios, and indicated he'll be discussing the future of some franchises with those he meets on his journey. "I'm going to start with the teams and what they're passionate about. That's why I'm excited to go on these visits. Then we'll look at it," he said.

As for when Activision Blizzard franchises will be heading to Game Pass, Spencer told fans not to expect any additions until 2024. When the company purchased Bethesda, it was able to quickly add some of the studio's catalog titles to Game Pass. This time around, however, regulatory uncertainty means some details still need ironing out.

"When we finished {acquiring] Bethesda, there was this great moment when we were able to put a bunch of back catalog games [on Game Pass] and celebrate their history," he said. 

"The truth of the matter is that with Activision Blizzard King the regulatory process took so long—and frankly there was a lot of uncertainty in that process until the week that we closed when the CMA finally came to their decision—that we weren't able to get in and work with, mostly Activision and Blizzard in this case, on that back catalog. Now the deal is closed, we're starting that work, but there is work [to be done]."

About the Author(s)

Chris Kerr

News Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Game Developer news editor Chris Kerr is an award-winning journalist and reporter with over a decade of experience in the game industry. His byline has appeared in notable print and digital publications including Edge, Stuff, Wireframe, International Business Times, and PocketGamer.biz. Throughout his career, Chris has covered major industry events including GDC, PAX Australia, Gamescom, Paris Games Week, and Develop Brighton. He has featured on the judging panel at The Develop Star Awards on multiple occasions and appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live to discuss breaking news.

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