Last month Microsoft announced it had purchased Activision Blizzard, one of the largest publishers in in the video game industry. This came after a number of high-profile purchases over the last few years including Bethesda in 2020 and a number of smaller development studios. I didn’t initially comment on this as it was worth waiting and getting a few details first. And one of the advantages of having few readers is there is little pressure to respond to the news cycle.
Microsoft has been involved in video games for a long time with DOS and then Windows becoming dominant in the personal computer market — the latter still being the main focus for PC gaming. They moved into the console market just over twenty years ago and the financial investment they put in immediately put them right in the competition though the original Xbox sold relatively poorly compared to Sony’s PlayStation 2; their main competitor.
They became far more successful with the Xbox 360 which was released in 2005 and remained on the market until the Xbox One was released eight years later. The Xbox One had a terrible start but did become successful though selling roughly half as well as the PlayStation 4. They are now on their fourth home console with the Xbox Series X (also continuing their confusing choice of names). It is too early to predict where this next generation will go — especially with the continued shortages of available units but the Xbox brand will at the very least, retain a significant place.
I haven’t mentioned Nintendo which has been there the whole time though not considered a direct competitor. The Nintendo Switch is still by far the most dominant home console though whether this continues is hard to say as Nintendo has seen more than a few rises and falls in close to forty years of involvement in the home console market.
One more aspect before getting to the main purpose of this post, is to point out that both Microsoft and Sony have noticeably began bringing their brands to the PC market. The Xbox brand is integrated into Windows 10 and most of the games and services are available on PC as well as console. Sony is slowly doing the same with many major games coming to PC though the console releases remain the priority. These moves suggest the brands may move truly beyond the consoles themselves and become services available on a variety of different devices in the long-term.
For now, Microsoft’s moves to acquire so many studios suggests it is trying to address a major weakness of the brand and that is the lack of exclusive titles available to the system.