Following Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard, Xbox head Phil Spencer has discussed reviving a number of their old IPs, particularly those from his childhood.
Spencer shone a light on Microsoft’s future plans for Activision Blizzard and its library of IPs in an interview with The Washington Post given shortly after the announcement of the $68.7 billion buyout deal, telling the news outlet, “I was looking at the IP list, I mean, let’s go! ‘King’s Quest,’ ‘Guitar Hero,’ … I should know this but I think they got ‘HeXen.’ ”
“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 stated. “I’m looking forward to these conversations. I really think it’s about adding resources and increasing capability.”
In addition to the three above listed IPs, Activision Blizzard’s franchises include such notable franchises as Diablo, Warcraft, Starcraft, Overwatch, Crash Bandicoot, Spyro The Dragon, and more.
During the initial acquisition announcement, Microsoft’s official statement confirmed Activation Blizzard games would be coming to Games Pass.
The idea of Microsoft reviving old Activision Blizzard IPs was also broached by Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick during a separate interview with Venture Beat.
According to Kotick, he and Spencer “started riffing on things for the future. I’ll give you three that are really compelling.”
“I wanted to make a new Guitar Hero for a while, but I don’t want to add teams to do manufacturing and supply chain and QA for manufacturing,” he said. “And the chip shortages are enormous. We didn’t really have the ability to do that. I had a really cool vision for what the next Guitar Hero would be, and realized we don’t have the resources to do that.”
He added, “And Skylanders too. One of the great disappointments of my career is that other people came in and they came out with crappy alternatives in the market, and basically destroyed the market for what was a really cool future opportunity. If you look at Skylanders, with its hardware and manufacturing and supply chain, there are the same kinds of things that we can’t do but Microsoft can.”
Returning to the Washington Post interview, Spencer also discussed the ongoing concerns over Activision Blizzard’s work culture and its ongoing sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit. “I believe the leaders there believe in the opportunity they have in their plan,” Spencer said.
Revealing that the acquisition had begun at the end of 2021, Spencer explained, “We spent time with the Activision team looking at the incidents, looking at employee polls and then had a good discussion with them about their plan, both the progress they’ve been making and what their plan was.”
However, outside of having “had to look at that forward plan and ensure we had a kind of confidence in that,” Spencer noted that Microsoft would have no involvement with Activision Blizzard’s ongoing legal troubles.
Spencer also expressed concerns over other the attempts by tech companies unfamiliar with gaming – such as Google, Amazon, and Facebook – to enter the industry, all of whom he believes may end up hurting the industry in the long run due to their main focuses being on other endeavors.
“[Nintendo and Sony] have a long history in video games,” he elaborated. “Nintendo’s not going to do anything that damages gaming in the long run because that’s the business they’re in. Sony is the same and I trust them. … Valve’s the same way.”
“When we look at the other big tech competitors for Microsoft: Google has search and Chrome, Amazon has shopping, Facebook has social, all these large-scale consumer businesses,” Spencer continued. “The discussion we’ve had internally, where those things are important to those other tech companies for how many consumers they reach, gaming can be that for us.”
He further stated, “I think we do have a unique point of view, which is not about how everything has to run on a single device or platform. That’s been the real turning point for us looking at gaming as a consumer opportunity that could have similar impact on Microsoft that some of those other scale consumer businesses do for other big tech competitors. And it’s been great to see the support we’ve had from the company and the board.”
In spite of this, Spencer also expressed an interest in the metaverse, advocating against it being a “workspace-only” environment and asserting that gaming will be a catalyst for how functionality for both enterprise and workplace scenarios will work.
“I’ve really been advocating internally in the company that gaming will be a catalyst for us and I can see how some of that functionality moving into enterprise scenarios and workplace scenarios can be beneficial,” Spencer told The Washington Post. “But I don’t think anybody should pretend that all this stuff isn’t being rewritten. I had a meeting today with the ‘The Elder Scrolls Online’ team and we did our leadership team [meeting] in-game. That’s as much of a Zoom call as anything else!”
Much like his belief of how games should not be restricted to one platform, Spencer also spoke to his vision for how those lines could be further blurred, stating, “For us as a platform company, what we’ve been doing with Xbox and Windows for years is ask how do players seamlessly move between these different worlds and they can have different identities and different clans and groups, but they also still feel anchored in an overall platform experience.”
This is the second time in recent months that Spencer has spoken on his interest in cross-platform ‘experiences’, advocating earlier this month for cross-console bans in order to combat toxicity. He also emphasized that Xbox – more specifically Xbox Live – was not a free speech platform.
Finally, in light of the recent attempts by employees at various video game industry institutions to unionize, Spencer was asked for his general feelings on unions, to which he replied, “I’m going to be honest, I don’t have a lot of personal experience with unions.”
“I’ve been at Microsoft for 33 years,” he admitted. “So I’m not going to try to come across as an expert on this, but I’ll say we’ll be having conversations about what empowers them to do their best work, which as you can imagine in a creative industry, is the most important thing for us.”
What do you think of Spencer’s comments? Are there any titles you’d like to see Microsoft revive or revitalize? Do you have faith in Microsoft to handle Activision Blizzard? Let us know on social media and in the comments below!