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WTF? Microsoft to Buy Activision

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By Nelson Schneider - 01/23/22 at 04:26 PM CT

The Triumvirate of Evil is about to become a duo. This week, Microsoft, the tech giant of operating systems and productivity software – and also-ran gaming platform holder – announced that they were going to buy Activision-Blizzard for nearly $69 billion dollars. No, that’s not a typo!

Microsoft has been on a buying binge over the last few years, fattening up the Xbox Games Division with the scattered remains of once-great Western videogame publisher, Interplay, along with a number of other smaller-and-Indie studios like Double-Fine. It was earthshaking when Microsoft bought Zenimax Media, the parent company of Bethesda Softworks and id Software, last year, but buying one of the three biggest, evilest gaming publishing houses for more cash than most of us mere mortals can truly conceive of is positively earthshattering.

Microsoft representatives have made statements to reassure the fanboys of “competing” platforms that their favorite third-party multi-platform games aren’t suddenly going to go Xbox-and-Windows exclusive. Of course, I put “competing” in quotes there, since Microsoft believes it has ascended to a new level of gaming where the likes of Nintendo and PlayStation are mere buzzing gnats, not actual competition.

No, Microsoft believes it is competing against Cloud service providers like Amazon, Google, Apple, and even Facebook’s announced Metaverse, the latter of which, according to Hobbit/Troglodyte Hybrid, Bobby Kotick (hopefully the soon-to-be former CEO of Activision), gave MS the final push to venture that much money into expanding its stable of gaming IPs to a ludicrous level. Of course, if you ask a gamer, ranging from the filthiest casual to the most masochistic Souls Troll what their favorite gaming platform or publisher is, NONE of Microsoft’s perceived competitors would even make the list. Amazon? Yeah, I guess that “New World” MMO that completely ripped off “Greedfall” was a meme for a couple months, but so what? Google? You mean the company that killed off its Cloud gaming aspirations last year? Metaverse? The pie-in-the-sky VR platform that will be the literal incarnation of Orwell’s “1984” if it ever gets off the ground, and the polar opposite of the Metaverse from “Ready Player One” that it desperately wants to be?

Perhaps Microsoft is attempting to correct an error in its past gaming endeavors. The company struggled to get into gaming when it launched the Xbox into an environment already dominated by Sony, Nintendo, and Sega. And when Sega bowed-out, instead of picking up the pieces then and buying out an established gaming name, MS continued to go it alone, only managing to find mild success during a 7th Generation in which its melting, Red-Ring-of-Death-prone Xbox 360s still seemed better in the eyes of most gamers than the dumpster fire of the PlayStation 3 or the “too casual” Wii (which still won out, in spite of the broader appeal). No, this time Microsoft is going into a new gaming arena where the other competitors have less savvy and less of a reputation. It seems that all of Microsoft’s good-will gestures toward gamers aren’t just an attempt at making up for the disastrous XBONE launch, but a way to make gamers like them enough that said gamers will be less likely to jump ship to Amazon, Google, or Meta, since they will already have established Microsoft loyalty.

It’s an interesting take on the Long Game. Microsoft has never made a profit on Xbox consoles, depending on licensing fees and subscriptions to keep the Xbox Division from bleeding cash. Even their new Gamepass subscription service is currently being offered at a loss, in order to lure-in an audience with the so-called “Best Deal in Gaming,” even as they tried – and were rebuffed by that same audience – to double the price of Xbox Live Gold last year. It’s seems obvious where MS is going with this: It’s the same direction they already went with Microsoft Office. Can you just buy Office when you want to install it on a new computer? No! You must subscribe to Office 365 for a monthly (or annual) fee, unless you’re like me and bought a copy of Office 2010 back before the cancer of Software as a Service had metastasized, and are continuing to reuse the old license key.

It’ll be interesting, to say the least, to see how Microsoft’s gaming audience responds to the changes that are clearly coming. Will they react like they did to the attempted Gold price hike? Or will they happily be boiled alive like the proverbial frog in the cook pot?

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