In October 2023, Microsoft completed its acquisition of Activision Blizzard, and by the end of the year, the latter company’s CEO had departed. Now, this will be the year where we’ll see how Activision Blizzard functions when fully integrated into Microsoft. The most immediate change for those who play games will likely be Activision Blizzard titles coming to Xbox Game Pass, Microsoft’s subscription service.
Microsoft and Activision have explained that because of the tribulations the acquisition encountered, it was impossible to have Xbox Game Pass additions prepared almost immediately after the acquisition, as it did with ZeniMax Media. In the coming months, I expect we’ll finally start to see Activision Blizzard games trickle onto the service, even if we shouldn’t expect it from this week’s Developer_Direct. As Activision Blizzard is one of the oldest game publishers out there, having released hundreds of games, there are plenty of titles to choose from. I’ve cherry-picked the ones I want to see most.
Diablo IV should be the first Activision Blizzard game to come to Microsoft’s gaming subscription service. Although I already own the game, I recognize that this lengthy RPG would be a fantastic fit for the service for multiple reasons. RPGs are perfect for Game Pass because they add tons of value to the subscription and remove the risk of players spending money on a lengthy game they don’t like. Diablo IV being on Game Pass would also make setting up multiplayer with friends easier, as you wouldn’t need to buy the game. Xbox Cloud Gaming can enable a portable option outside the niche handheld PC space. Whenever Microsoft drops Activision games on Xbox Game Pass, expect Diablo IV to be the headliner.
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 1 and 2
The Marvel: Ultimate Alliance games were a big part of my childhood, as I sunk dozens of hours into the games across Wii, Xbox, and Xbox 360. As Diablo-likes, these games provided thorough deep dives into the Marvel universe when the MCU was just starting. They’re also enjoyable co-op games, which suits Game Pass. While the Ultimate Alliance games did see PS4 and Xbox One remasters in 2016, they were delisted alongside many of Activision’s other licensed games. Consider this entry a symbolic one: a hope that Microsoft sorts out any legal issues and can rerelease some classic licensed games that Activision Blizzard published.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
My favorite of FromSoftware’s games, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, trades the typically slower, methodical gameplay of the Dark Souls games for intense parry-filled samurai combat. Activision published this game in North America, meaning Microsoft now technically has publishing rights to the game. The best thing Microsoft can do with the game — outside of greenlighting a sequel — is put Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice on Xbox Game Pass. A FromSoftware title on the service would be a major draw in a post-Elden Ring world. It also paves the way for any game that Activision has been involved with over the years to potentially come to Game Pass.
Prototype Biohazard Bundle
Although Activision mainly focuses on its biggest franchises, it has left plenty behind. In particular, Radical Entertainment’s two Prototype games from the Xbox 360 generation haven’t gotten much love recently, but they feel primed for a comeback. These open-world action games star a superhuman character who can shape-shift his body, typically into weapons, making for some brutal action. They were some of the most entertaining open-world games of their era, but this series never quite reached the heights of series like Grand Theft Auto or Assassin’s Creed. The Prototype Biohazard Bundle contains the two games that came to Xbox One in 2015, so adding them to Xbox Game Pass should be easy. Maybe if they’re popular enough on the service, Microsoft will see enough interest for another game in this franchise.
World of Warcraft
World of Warcraft is the most popular MMO of all time and has expansions and updates planned for the next several years. Even though it’s only on PC, it feels like an obvious move to put World of Warcraft on the PC version of Game Pass for those who want to forgo paying a monthly subscription. That move would make it easier than ever for millions of people to get into the MMO and ensure it stays relevant for several more years to come. This approach benefited The Elder Scrolls Online following the ZeniMax Media acquisition, so it feels natural for World of Warcraft to follow suit. If nothing else, I hope there are some special bonuses for Xbox Game Pass subscribers who play World of Warcraft and Blizzard’s other games.
Vicarious Visions, Beenox, and Toys for Bob all did some great work over the last decade on excellent remakes of the earliest games in the Crash Bandicoot, Crash Team Racing, Spyro, and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series. It’d be wise for Microsoft to add these remakes to Xbox Game Pass as soon as possible because these are popular franchises with dedicated fan bases that can be drawn to the service. While these are the obvious choices, I hope Microsoft and Activision Blizzard are willing to dig into their classic game catalog and make as many of these as possible available via Game Pass.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III
While Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III isn’t a very good game, it’s another title Microsoft needs to put on the service to publicly demonstrate the full integration of Activision Blizzard into Xbox. More generally speaking, I’m curious about how Microsoft will roll the Call of Duty titles out on Xbox Game Pass. Does it release them all at once in a massive drop? Or does the company trickle them out over time so Call of Duty fans have a reason to return to the service month after month? It also seems likely that this year’s Call of Duty will be the first Activision Blizzard day-one release on the service, so 2024 will likely be a massive year for Xbox Game Pass, no matter what Activision games Xbox decides to add.