Microsoft's acquisition of Activision Blizzard (opens in new tab) led to immediate questions about its biggest games. Will Call of Duty become an Xbox exclusive? (It does not appear so (opens in new tab).) Will Master Chief turn up in Overwatch? Will we get World of Warcraft/Elder Scrolls Online crossover events? (Microsoft bought Bethesda less than a year ago, don't forget.)
These are all valid questions, but in an interview with the Washington Post (opens in new tab), Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer touched on one that I think is even more interesting: What about all of Activision's older stuff?
"I was looking at the IP list, I mean, let’s go!" Spencer said. "King’s Quest, Guitar Hero... I should know this but I think they got Hexen."
It does indeed have Hexen, which was developed by Raven Software back in the early '90s—Activision acquired Raven in 1997. And there's a lot more than just that. Activision also holds the Sierra brand, which gives it everything from King's Quest to SWAT (and an arguable finger in the No One Lives Forever pie), as well as Star Control and Crash Bandicoot studio Toys for Bob, Prototype developer Radical Entertainment, and others—it's a long list.
Blizzard has a formidable back catalog all on its own: Microsoft brought back Age of Empires, so maybe it'll do the same for StarCraft—maybe we'll even get StarCraft: Ghost someday (but probably not). It's been awhile since we've seen a proper new Warcraft game, too.
It's not a complete pipe dream: Spencer told the WSJ that Microsoft intends to talk to its new studios about working on games that have been languishing in Activision Blizzard's archives—including those, like Toys for Bob and (hopefully, I would love another Singularity) Raven, that have been relegated to Call of Duty support studios.
"We’re hoping that we’ll be able to work with them when the deal closes to make sure we have resources to work on franchises that I love from my childhood and that the teams really want to get," Spencer said. "I’m looking forward to these conversations. I really think it’s about adding resources and increasing capability."
It's an exciting prospect. Activision Blizzard is a big company, but it's focused on the guaranteed money-makers—and in terms of "adding resources and increasing capability," it's absolutely dwarfed by Microsoft. It's not just a matter of money, though. Twitter user PeteXN (opens in new tab), for instance, reminded everyone that Microsoft also owns Double Fine Productions (opens in new tab), headed up by Tim Schafer, one of the central figures behind the famed adventure games developed by Lucasarts—a direct competitor to Sierra back in the 1990s. Is a Schafer-led Space Quest reboot likely? No, but it's possible, and by God I'd pay good money to play it.
Spencer's enthusiasm for doing more than milking the Call of Duty cow is heartening, but this is all wishful thinking for now, as Microsoft's acquisition of Activision Blizzard is still a long way off: Microsoft currently estimates that the deal will pass regulatory hurdles and be closed sometime in its 2023 fiscal year, which ends on June 20, 2023.