Xbox boss Phil Spencer is open to breaking the seal on some forgotten games: 'If teams want to go back and revisit some [games] … I'm gonna be all in'

Phil Spencer, chief executive officer of gaming at Microsoft Corp., arrives to court in San Francisco, California, US, on Wednesday, June 28, 2023. Microsoft and Activision Blizzard CEOs are expected to testify to persuade a federal judge in California to reject the Federal Trade Commission's effort to block their $69 billion deal. Photographer: Philip Pacheco/Bloomberg via Getty Images
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Whether you think Microsoft's recent acquisition of Activision Blizzard is a move toward a dry gaming monopoly or a financial windfall for Activision and Blizzard games both, it's definitely happened. The UK's CMA has given the thumbs up, Kotick's on his way out—the deal's closed, and now we get to see the impact ripples spread.

It looks like there's already some great news for fans of Activision Blizzard's older catalogue, as confirmed by Xbox boss Phil Spencer himself in an official interview on the Xbox channel. "I do think with Game Pass that we have the ability to pick a couple franchises every year and almost do like a 'revisited' [version]—I just made up that term … when you look across the franchises that are part of our teams, there's an opportunity to go back."

There really is a huge catalogue to cover—two of gaming's biggest companies merging for a second time with Microsoft? That's miles of fertile ground to dig up for remakes and remasters. Still, Spencer insists he's not keen on cash grabs. "I wanna make sure that when we go back and visit something that we do it with our complete ability … not just create something for financial gain (or a PR announcement), and not deliver."

Ultimately, while he's got his own wishlist (the return of FPS classic Hexen is a running gag), Spencer says it's important for these fresh coats of paint to be a result of developer passion: "If teams wanna go back and revisit some of the things we have, and do a full focus on it, I'm gonna be all in. I think there's an amazing trove of [games] we can go and touch on again.

"I think about things like the Quake 2 remaster that just came out from [id Software], I thought that was awesome. They did a real good job revisiting a game, making it current, but not leaving its history behind. I'd love to see more things like that."

These are all plans for the future, though—Spencer says it's likely we won't be seeing Activision-Blizzard's catalogue coming to Game Pass this year. "The truth of the matter is with Activision-Blizzard King is that the regulatory process took so long … we weren't able to get in and work with Activision-Blizzard on that back catalogue. Now that the deal is closed, we're starting that work, but there is work."

Harvey Randall
Staff Writer

Harvey's history with games started when he first begged his parents for a World of Warcraft subscription aged 12, though he's since been cursed with Final Fantasy 14-brain and a huge crush on G'raha Tia. He made his start as a freelancer, writing for websites like Techradar, The Escapist, Dicebreaker, The Gamer, Into the Spine—and of course, PC Gamer. He'll sink his teeth into anything that looks interesting, though he has a soft spot for RPGs, soulslikes, roguelikes, deckbuilders, MMOs, and weird indie titles. He also plays a shelf load of TTRPGs in his offline time. Don't ask him what his favourite system is, he has too many.