Microsoft Buying Activision Blizzard Is Bad
You've played Monopoly before, right? Sure you have. I mean, there's Pokemon monopoly, Rick & Morty Monopoly, Game of Thrones Monopoly, every major city in the world has its own Monopoly… there are so many Monopolies you could probably have a Monopoly where all the properties are different versions of Monopoly. In fact, Jerry, write that down and send it to Uncle Pennybags. Anyway, there are a bajillion versions of Monopoly in the world and – true story – no one has ever finished a game because Monopoly is garbage. Don't worry though, it's supposed to be.
Monopoly was invented as an anti-fun board game in order to show the dangers that come when one rich company buys up everything and can charge whatever they like for it. Of course, because capitalism sucks, it’s now just a game where you put a hotel on Charizard or whatever the hotels are in the Pokemon version. Gyms, probably. The reason I'm talking about monopoly is because Microsoft has just bought Activision Blizzard for $70 billion, and that feels like bad news.
To some of you, it probably feels like good news. The situation at Activision Blizzard has hit such lows that for all the reasons stated here, and more, TheGamer does not typically cover Activision Blizzard news unless it relates to the ongoing lawsuits and alleged workplace abuses. Our stance will remain that way until we see meaningful structural changes, regardless of the buyout – and with Bobby Kotick due to stay in his position for now, those changes will come slow, if they ever come at all.
Still, Bobby Kotick used to be at the top of the tree. He now reports to Phil Spencer – by all accounts a pretty stand-up guy. That's good, right? And Microsoft is far more varied and experimental in its output than Activision, who has routinely shuffled studios away from interesting projects into making the guns even gunnier in Call of Duty. Now that Microsoft is calling the shots, maybe there's hope for Wumpa League, for a new THPS, maybe even a new Pitfall. I mean, definitely not that last one, but on the most binary level, Microsoft seem like a good games company, giving us Game Pass, pushing creativity, and having a diverse leadership team, while Activision Blizzard, with its numerous scandals, recent over-reliance on Call of Duty, and taking the heat for inventing the lootbox system through Overwatch, is a bad games company. The good company now owns the bad company, and will start to make the bad good, or at least less bad. Right?
Unfortunately, probably not. Kotick is staying. He may eventually go, and there will likely be more changes at ABK, and better conditions for the workers, with Microsoft pulling the strings, and that is obviously a very good thing. It's also speculation at this point. As for the games themselves, Microsoft now owns Bethesda, Activision Blizzard, and a large handful of other studios. Its IP includes Call of Duty, Diablo, World of Warcraft, Starcraft, Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, Guitar Hero, Tony Hawk Pro Skater, Fallout, Doom, Quake, Psychonauts, Elder Scrolls, Prey, Wolfenstein, Halo, Forza, Fable, Gears of War, Perfect Dark, Age of Empires, Killer Instinct, Banjo-Kazooie, Battletoads, Conker, Viva Pinata, Minecraft, Candy Crush, and – if you can believe it – more.
Sony has some big guns in its army, but not a lot of soldiers. Sony's whole strategy has been to invest in a small selection of high quality triple-A titles that all follow similar design conventions. Xbox, buying up Bethesda and Activision, has just bought that strategy out from under them. Xbox is doing everything it can to appeal to the players right now because it's losing. Game Pass is such a steal because Xbox needs someone – anyone – to come play with it. Sony was well on top of the PS4 generation, and as a result it has moved into the PS5 era with high price points and an aura of confidence. Don't want to pay $70? Fine, don't play God of War. See if we care, we’re winning anyway.
Xbox's strategy will take time to bear fruit, but right now, it has a lot more trees than Sony. Yeah, I'm switching from soldiers to trees, deal with it. Xbox is only your mate because it's desperate for friends. It's the girl with glasses and braces and a pastel backpack. In a few years she's going to have a makeover montage and she's not going to want to date a loser like you. Xbox owns too many things.
Disney also owns too many things, and despite Disney itself standing for creativity and expression and filling our childhood imaginations with hope, the reality is if you don't make Disney levels of money, you aren't worth Disney's time. Xbox doesn't seem like that right now because it's sat at a table in the corner with tape around its glasses playing Psychonauts with you. But it has been plotting for years on how to beat PlayStation at its own game and join the cool kids table. When it makes the jump, we'll get left behind.
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