OPINION – Now that Microsoft has Activision Blizzard, bringing Battle.net and PC Game Pass together is a no-brainer – what would that mean for gamers?
It is tough to affirm something in such a resounding and capital way, but, as happened in 2020 with the purchase of ZeniMax Studios – the company that owns Bethesda-, this 2022 will be marked by the recent acquisition of Activision-Blizzard from Microsoft. It is extremely curious to see how a few weeks ago, in the context of all the harassment and dismissal scandals within Bobby Kotick’s business group, Phil Spencer announced that the company was “evaluating its relationship with Activision “.
A period of reflection has ended curiously, with a check for 50,000 million dollars and the acquisition of its commercial licenses. However, Microsoft’s work does not end here. Many users are waiting to see how Phil Spencer’s hand picks up the dead leaves and redirects a seriously injured company.
But, where is the player in all this? The truth is that sagas like Call of Duty, Diablo or World of Warcraft become part of the extensive catalogue of those from Redmond, and what does that imply? Will we be able to play Call of Duty: Warzone on Game Pass? How will this affect the future of licenses like Diablo or Overwatch? Let’s think about all this a bit.
What will happen to the Battle.net app?
The situation with Battle.net is quite complicated. For one thing, the Activision Blizzard download client doesn’t provide stats as Steam does. Valve’s platform is much more open, while Activision Blizzard guards its data with suspicion. On the other hand, Call of Duty: Warzone has had a considerable weight in the video game industry since its launch, coming to unseat such essential titles as Overwatch, Diablo or World of Warcraft itself.
It is complicated to draw conclusions, but it is undeniable that games like Black Ops 4 or Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time do not have the same numbers as Call of Duty: Warzone. The battle royale game is the most played title with more than 231 million hours last year 2021; if we look at the data collected by Newzoo, and has relegated Battle.net to be the download client from Warzone. Otherwise, if we look at the rest of the launcher’s proposals, we will see that it only has 17 games available.
So will Battle.net go away as an effort by Microsoft to bundle everything into its download client? The situation is much more complicated than that, but we only have to look at EA Play for an easy solution. EA’s launcher, Origin, has also been relegated to only two main games: Apex Legends and Battlefield; still, its strategic alliance with Microsoft has earned them a good number of players for a single reason: visibility.
EA Play games can be downloaded and played on the Xbox App and, although we need to have Origin or EA Desktop installed for it to work, it’s a vital addition and brings enormous life to the Electronic Arts licenses. In this case, we are not talking about a collaboration agreement but a purchase, so the merger between Xbox App and Battle.net should be pushed to the limit. Closing the launcher would mean going head-to-head against the gaming communities based there, but moving the entire catalogue to the Xbox app and enabling cross-play between them would be what would save Battle.net from falling into oblivion.
We’re not talking about having both clients and running both to play a game, no. We are talking about a total merger in which Activision-Blizzard games – from Warzone to Starcraft, through Overwatch or Diablo – are available to buy, share and play within the Xbox Game Pass catalogue itself.
New horizons for the PC games
Considering Xbox Game Studios’ philosophies, we assume that accessibility will be a creative maxim in Activision Blizzard’s future. Meanwhile, the Xbox Adaptive Controller allows people with disabilities to share their hobby with other community members regardless of their limitations. And they also have a policy of bringing their games to as many platforms as possible.
In an environment like this, we suspect that the more closed games in Activision Blizzard’s catalogue will also have to open up one way or another. Overwatch is already in a good repertoire of platforms and has adapted perfectly to all of them with cross-play, and it is even possible to play World of Warcraft with a controller, but the subject of the publication is a barrier that has not yet been passed. If Halo Infinite is available on Steam from day one, is it possible that we will see Heroes of the Storm on Valve’s platform, sharing space with DOTA 2? What would Overwatch 2 user reviews say if it was next to Team Fortress 2?
The cloud is also an interesting topic because it is a field that only a few privileged publishers have had the opportunity to explore yet. It is possible to play Psychonauts 2 with a mobile phone and an Xbox controller if you are subscribed to Game Pass Ultimate, but it would be interesting to see how this opportunity impacts the interface of Diablo IV, for example, knowing that it has also had a mobile adaptation called Diablo Immortal. The same for possible portable versions of Starcraft and even Call of Duty: the first does not have a conversion yet, but the intention is more than declared, and the second has a mighty CoD Mobile version which has already shown its strength.
The WoW subscription on Xbox Game Pass
Oh, look, how curious. In November 2020 (almost 2021), World of Warcraft: Shadowlands became the fastest-selling PC game ever. And yet, the year that just ended marked an unprecedented decline in WoW because to the natural loss of interest that occurs after any release, we have to add the volume of fans who left the game, upset with the dark realities of labour inequality and abuses that were uncovered by reports a few months ago; as well as those that directly migrated to the much more respected Final Fantasy XIV.
Put another way, the world of Azeroth is in the doldrums, and this time it’s not because a supernatural entity threatens the sacred balance of things. Instead, it’s one of those human decadences that arouses a sense of abjection in many of us. But it’s also one of the most iconic franchises to join the Xbox Game Studios roster, and therefore it’s hard to see it as anything less than a cornerstone of the transaction. How could we take advantage of what we have in the most efficient way? It’s pretty simple: bring the World of Warcraft subscription to Xbox Game Pass.
If EA Play or Discord Nitro are included in that service, there doesn’t seem to be any reason to exclude the veteran MMO’s monthly fee. At the end of the day, what a game like this needs to stay afloat is a steady stream of new users, which is why so many of its competitors adopt a crucial free-to-play model. Eventually, many will find that everything they play as a hobby is included in the same place. You may not feel like buying a two-month subscription to World of Warcraft the month another interesting game comes out, but if with PC Game Pass you can have both, for many that will be the most profitable option.