Gamers! Your fifteen-year-old Guitar Hero guitars may soon catch a second wind.
Microsoft’s Game Pass continues to add to its expansive library of games as the industry-leading service will soon receive games from Activision Blizzard after acquiring the company for a record breaking $68.7 billion, the largest acquisition in Microsoft’s history.
Because of the size of the deal, the Federal Trade Commission is reviewing the acquisition to determine its legality, potentially delaying its finalization until 2023. While it could be argued that Microsoft has officially become a monopoly of the video game industry, the company does have the opportunity to spark good will among consumers if it uses its power to ensure the preservation of older video game series like Guitar Hero and Tony Hawk’s.
Over the past few years, Microsoft has invested heavily into building up Xbox Game Pass, its subscription-based service that gives members access to hundreds of games that they can download and play. It launched in June 2017 with 105 different games available, and its library has steadily increased to over 440 games as of February 2022.
A major contributor to this large number is Microsoft’s expansive approach toward backward compatibility as there are now hundreds of older games on Game Pass. The service debuted on the Xbox One, but has many games available from the original Xbox and Xbox 360, including most games from Microsoft’s flagship franchises like Halo, Gears of War and Fable.
What’s most noteworthy about the Game Pass library, though, is the large number of older games from third-party studios. Game series like Dead Space, Crysis and Mass Effect are all available on Game Pass despite not being owned or published by Microsoft. This is great news for video game preservation as it means subscribers have access to older games regardless of their exclusivity to Xbox or their original publisher.
In pursuit of growing Game Pass, Microsoft has been acquiring notable studios involved in some of the most popular games over the past few years. In March 2021, Microsoft acquired ZeniMax Media for $7.5 billion, and subsequently added 20 of the studio’s games to Game Pass within weeks of completing the deal. Some of the games included were from historic franchises like Doom, Elder Scrolls and Fallout, with entries dating as far back as 1993.
Microsoft would be wise to follow a similar process with its acquisition of Activision Blizzard by releasing games from its biggest intellectual properties onto Game Pass. This would include games like Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, StarCraft, Overwatch, Diablo, Candy Crush, Spyro, Crash Bandicoot, Guitar Hero and Tony Hawk’s.
Many games in these franchises have not had rereleases or ports onto other platforms, meaning the only way to currently play them is to physically own a copy of the game and the original console it was released on like PlayStation 2 or GameCube. However, adding these games to Game Pass could change that and bring these games to a much bigger audience than they’ve had before.
Activision Blizzard is considered a giant within the industry, having acquired dozens of studios over the past couple of decades. Many of these acquisitions ended with the subsidiary ultimately being closed or absorbed by Activision. For example, RedOctane, Inc. (Guitar Hero) was founded in 1999, acquired by Activision in 2006 and closed by Activision in 2010. Neversoft Entertainment (Tony Hawk’s) was founded in 1994, acquired by Activision in 1999 and merged into Infinity Ward (Call of Duty) in 2014.
While Activision Blizzard shows how industry monopolies can be harmful, the growth of Microsoft — through its acquisitions — has at least made more games readily available to consumers. Although the future of Activision Blizzard’s smaller IP’s is still uncertain, gamers should soon be able to play the company’s greatest hits and hopefully keep older franchises like Guitar Hero and Tony Hawk’s alive.
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to New Mexico State University, the NMSU Department of Journalism and Media Studies, Kokopelli, or any other organization, committee, group or individual.