It’s been a big week in gaming. On January 18, we felt seismic waves ripple through the industry as Microsoft announced that it was set to acquire Activision Blizzard; the beleaguered company behind some of gaming’s biggest IP that has recently been embroiled in a messy, public discrimination and harrassment lawsuit brought by the state of California.
After the news broke, we started to piece together more elements of the story: whether it was unpopular Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick saying he will be “available as needed” at Activision Blizzard “to ensure the very best integration”, or Microsoft saying that it’s not the company’s “intent to pull communities away” from PlayStation, a lot of our early questions about the merger began to see some answers.
But there’s still a lot we don’t know; what does this mean for Activision Blizzard games on non-Xbox platforms? Will Microsoft start offering games made by its 30 internal studios (that’s how many it’ll have, should the deal go through) to other platforms? Could we even see Microsoft extend Game Pass to other places, given the company’s end-game seems to be subscribers more than anything else?
It’s all, currently, unclear. But there’s one thing we do know: Xbox Game Pass will get a lot more games added to it once the acquisition is finalised. You’d hope so, too, given Microsoft bought Activision Blizzard for about what Disney paid to acquire Fox.
“[When the deal closes], we will offer as many Activision Blizzard games as we can within Xbox Game Pass and PC Game Pass, both new titles and games from Activision Blizzard’s incredible catalog,” said Xbox’s Phil Spencer, CEO at Microsoft Gaming, in a press release. “We also announced today that Game Pass now has more than 25 million subscribers. As always, we look forward to continuing to add more value and more great games to Game Pass.”
With that in mind, we’ve put a list together of the games that likely will – and won’t – be coming to Xbox Game Pass once the deal of the year is complete. And it’s pretty significant.
Activision Blizzard games potentially coming to Xbox Game Pass
Overwatch / Overwatch 2
Though we’ve not heard a lot about the anticipated hero-shooter sequel lately, it stands to reason that Xbox will want to put a lot of focus on bringing Overwatch in as a big Xbox exclusive when it comes to consoles. The major competitive scene in the game lives and dies (and is resurrected) on PC, so bringing the series to Xbox Game Pass for PC is something of a no-brainer, really. Whether this all means we’ll hear more about the game this year remains to be seen, though. At least the first title still gets plenty of support, and will likely get a whole new audience if it arrives on the subscription service.
Call of Duty series
In the past, when Xbox has acquired a company – here’s looking at you Bethesda – Microsoft has made a big song and dance about putting all of the biggest games on Game Pass as soon as possible. The most obvious, big move like this when the Activision Blizzard move goes through is Call of Duty: whether or not we could see the entire series arrive on the service (thanks to backwards compatibility) is curious, but we could at least see the likes of Modern Warfare, Black Ops Cold War, Vanguard and maybe even some of the older last-gen games appear on the service without a hitch. If you’ve been holding off on playing Ghosts (we can’t imagine why…) maybe you’ll finally get the chance!
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
In a strange move for perpetual Bandai Namco buddies, From Software, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice was actually published – and funded – by Activision. The game (which many argue is the best of the Souls-like genre) is a more rapid, white-knuckle affair than the Dark Souls games, and one that builds on the pacey combat first flirted with in Bloodborne. Having this on Game Pass is a no-brainer, especially if the playerbase is itching for another hardcare action-RPG fix once Elden Ring is out the gates.
Crash Bandicoot 4 / Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy / Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled
Once upon a time, our favourite orange marsupial was the face of PlayStation – whether it was in Japan, Europe or the States, Crash became synonymous with all things Sony PlayStation. How times change, eh? Xbox needs a good platformer of its own; the company has never really been able to make a platformer mascot that’s stuck in its (relatively) young life. Offering the Crash games (courtesy of Beenox and Toys for Bob) on Xbox Game Pass will scratch the nostalgia itch with the legacy titles, and will provide spinning, jumping and Wumpa-collecting maniacs around the globe with the promise of more to come once they get their appetite primed by the newest game in the series. There are over 20 Crash Bandicoot games, all told, and it stands to reason that Microsoft could get a decent haul on Game Pass if it delved deep into the series’ long history. It’s worth noting that some of the recent Crash games were timed PlayStation exclusives at launch, but we can’t see that muddying the waters too badly here.
Diablo 2: Resurrected / Diablo 3: Eternal Collection
Last year, we saw a (fairly quiet) release of a Diablo 2 remaster on PC and console. Granted, it did launch in the middle of Activision Blizzard’s messy, on-going legal drama. Perhaps the game will get a second chance to shine if it gets added to Game Pass? Dropping it ahead of the launch of Diablo 4 (if that ever actually happens), maybe with Diablo 3 as a chaser, could do wonders in generating hype for the new title.
Spyro Reignited Trilogy
Spyro – once upon a time the property of Insomniac Games – is now under the stewardship of Toys For Bob, who has proved to be a great caretaker of the lil’ purple dragon. The 2018 remaster of Spyro’s first trilogy is a must play for kids of any age, and it seems like a no-brainer for Microsoft to bring this one to Game Pass at its earliest convenience. Take it from me, this one’s a good title to hunt down achievements in, too.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 Remastered
Given Activision owns all the rights to the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games (and their spin-offs, like American Wasteland, and so on), we may see a collection of over 20 games leveraged to pad out the sports section on the Game Pass. Joining the likes of Skate 3 over on the EA Play portion of the service, that’d make many skaters the world over – including yours truly – incredibly happy. The only thing standing in the way would be licensing rights to music and, potentially, even Hawk’s name itself. That shouldn’t be an issue for the latest game, though; it only came out in 2020!
And here’s a list of other games that we could see arrive on the service, eventually, either as a retro port, a PC release or collection:
- Candy Crush
- Geometry Wars
- Hearthstone (we could get benefits on playing this free-to-play title via Game Pass, a la Halo Infinite)
- Heroes of the Storm
- Interstate ’76
- King’s Quest
- The Lost Vikings
- Quest for Glory
- Solider of Fortune
- Space Quest
- True Crime
- World of Warcraft
Activision Blizzard games probably not coming to Xbox Game Pass
The Guitar Hero/DJ Hero series
This one’s tricky; whilst Activision Blizzard does have the rights to the Guitar Hero songs, it’s very likely that making legacy titles for sale and playable again will be tricky thanks to ever-changed licensing agreements with rights holders for various songs. Dedicated Guitar Hero games – like Aerosmith or Metallica – will be tricky re-visits because of this. Additionally, getting old peripherals may be hard if you want to play the games properly. The easiest way we’ll see this series arrive on Game Pass would be in the form of 2015’s Guitar Hero Live… and given that the GHTV mode was shut down on 1 December 2018 (reducing the available Guitar Hero songs from 484 to a measly 42), our best bet may just be to wait for another game in the series… if that’ll ever happen.
Deadpool and Activision’s Marvel games
Deadpool – along with the vast amount of other games published by Activision under the Marvel license – was delisted and removed from digital storefronts in 2014. Though the game was re-released on November 18, 2015 to tie-in with the cinematic release of Ryan Reynolds’ film, it was once again delisted on November 16, 2017 thanks to licensing issues. The long and short of it: this one probably isn’t going to come to Game Pass any time soon. The same goes for the Ultimate Alliance games, that actually-not-too-bad Wolverine Origins game (don’t judge me), the 2000s X-Men games and the Spider-Man games from the same era. Microsoft could always cut some ridiculous deal with Disney, I guess, but with Spider-Man being a tight Sony property at this point, it’s unlikely we’ll see much movement on these old games.
Activision’s Transformers games
Activision’s array of Transformers games – including, but not limited to High Moon Studios’ Transformers: War for Cybertron and Platinum Games’ Transformers Devastation – will probably never make it to the Game Pass service either. At the end of 2017, these games were removed from digital storefronts thanks, again, to licensing issues as Hasbro didn’t renew a contract with the publisher. Whether or not Microsoft can come to some sort of arrangement with the company to get the games back on storefronts remains to be seen, but for now it’s probably best to assume you’ll need a disc to play these titles, else you won’t be able to play them at all.
Similarly to the Guitar Hero series, the Skylanders games rely on peripherals and accessories that are not in production any more. This would mean that, even if the titles did make it to Game Pass, the vast majority of players would have a poor time with the games (with some progression even locked behind having the right figures in certain cases). Sure, you can play the games without the figures, but collectibles and some areas are locked off without them. So if they came to the service, either we’ll have modified games that kinda lose the point of the originals, or severely impacted ports. It’s probably not worth the hassle, eh?
Released for the PS3 and Xbox 360 back in 2010, Blur was a by Bizarre Creations game (RIP) that was published by Activision. As much as we’d like to see the title make a roaring comeback, the game featured a wide selection of real-world cars ranging from Dodge Vipers to Lotus Exiges to Ford Transit and vans fitted with F1 engines. It was a wild project. Sadly, car license work a lot like music licenses, and as such, we’re unlikley to see this make its way to Game Pass. But what about a Blur 2? We can dream!