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Will Activision Blizzard games be Xbox exclusive? Look at history

Microsoft is acquiring Activision Blizzard, and that’s a massive deal. That’s not hyperbole — it is literally the biggest acquisition in gaming history, totaling $68.7 billion.

But it’s also a massive deal for players, and not just on Xbox or PC, but also on PlayStation. Because once this acquisition closes in 2023 and Microsoft has the reins of Activision Blizzard, you can expect a solid number of the publisher’s IPs to become console exclusive.

And yes, I do mean Call of Duty too.

It’s happened before

If you’re reading this in horror, mouth agape, thinking to yourself “no, Microsoft can’t do this” well, do I have some bad news for you: It can, and it has done this exact same thing before. Recall Microsoft’s acquisition of ZeniMax Media back in 2020. It was a simpler time, when we thought a $7.5 billion acquisition was massive. But immediately following it, players had the same concerns. Could Microsoft take Bethesda’s games and make them exclusive to Xbox consoles?

For a while, Phil Spencer left that question up in the air. In a blog post, he wrote that “some new titles in the future” will be exclusive to Xbox and PC players. Of course, “some” is the keyword there, and it left room for PlayStation players to hope. It meant that maybe, just maybe, the next Elder Scrolls or Fallout game would head to every platform, just like they had when Bethesda wasn’t a first-party studio.

A character in Starfield.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

That was then shot down when Spencer did an interview with GQ, in which he said that both Starfield and The Elder Scrolls VI would be exclusive to Xbox and PC. Bethesda’s senior vice president of global communications, Pete Hines, could do nothing but apologize if fans were “unhappy or pissed or whatever,” in an interview with GameSpot. He immediately followed that with “Sorry. All I can really say is I apologize, because I’m certain that that’s frustrating to folks, but there’s not a whole lot I can do about it.”

Simply put, in 2021 it didn’t make sense for Microsoft to let players on PlayStation consoles get Bethesda’s games. While the company may say that it wants everyone to be able to play games easily, there’s a caveat in there that those games have to be played on Microsoft’s platforms. That means if you’re not on Xbox or if you don’t have a game pass subscription, you’re out of luck. And that’s not changing any time soon.

Same as it ever was

With Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard, the question of whether or not Call of Duty — along with so many of Activision Blizzard’s other major franchises — will be exclusive to Xbox and PC answers itself. Just like with its acquisition of ZeniMax Media, Microsoft isn’t going to spend inordinate amounts of money to put games on platforms it doesn’t own. It would rather bring players into its own ecosystem, have them buy a Game Pass subscription or an Xbox console.

There is no incentive for Microsoft to give PlayStation players games, and the tech giant certainly isn’t going to do it out of goodwill.

Starting in 2023, when Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard is set to close, you can bet that Call of Duty, along with multiple other franchises, will make the move over to Xbox’s platforms. If we’re being honest, the only way PlayStation users will be able to play a Call of Duty game after next year will be through Call of Duty: Warzone. If you’re a PlayStation owner who’s looking for the annual Call of Duty experience, open your wallet and get ready to pay Microsoft.

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Otto Kratky
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Otto Kratky is a freelance writer with many homes. You can find his work at Digital Trends, GameSpot, and Gamepur. If he's…
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