On Microsoft acquiring Activision Blizzard
Looks like Microsoft isn’t done with it’s acquisition spree. And we all thought the Bethesda-deal was huge. As a gaming website (can’t remember, Polygon, The Verge, or Kotaku) pointed out, this was the equivalent of Pixar, Star Wars, and Marvel, forced into the arms of Disney.
Microsoft is one step closer to dominance. Imagine all the games they now have in their hands: Doom, The Elder Scrolls, the upcoming and much hyped Starfield, which will now be joined by Call of Duty, Overwatch, and World of Warcraft. Imagine all of those now exclusive to Xbox and PC and part of the Game Pass.
This is less about content though. It’s about steering consumers into Microsoft’s own ecosystem. They did mention the metaverse. For Activision Blizzard’s part, I doubt they would have sold if they weren’t swimming in their own crap for the controversies they’ve stirred. Selling themselves, they’ve passed huge amounts of responsibility elsewhere while avoiding accountability, and still make a ton of money for them to go yachting for a couple of years until the dust settles and make their big comebacks.
Sony is in deep waters. They’re losing popular titles, giving people less reasons to get a PS5. Microsoft doesn’t seem to care about consoles, as evidence of the introduction of the weaker Xbox Series S and the push for Game Pass.
What can Sony do? I doubt they will start their own binge of acquisitions. Maybe they’ll get a few. Heck, they could probably try to acquire Konami and get those Castlevanias and Metal Gears rolling. Seriously, a PlayStation exclusive Metal Gear would send numbers to the moon. But the title’s name remains shrouded without the name Hideo Kojima attached to it. Maybe with the right team, they could prove Metal Gear can live on without Kojima. Maybe.
Speaking of Kojima. Perhaps Sony can make a deal with Kojima Productions to make PlayStation exclusives. I believe that’s what happened with Death Stranding. However, PlayStation exclusives haven’t been staying exclusive: Horizon Zero Dawn was probably the first to make the break to PC, Kingdom Hearts became available in the Epic Games Store, the remake of Final Fantasy VII also made landfall on the PC, Uncharted — a game I strongly believe has sold countless PS3’s and PS4’s has now gone to PC, and very recently, God of War. The upside is, it took years before these games became non-exclusive. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if in the next five years we see Bloodborne on PC.
That’s fine for those in the waiting game. Sucks for those who are not, and that’s why they’ll be getting a PS5. From where I’m from, PS5 continues to face shortages, while Xbox Series X and S are more readily available and at somewhat more respectable prices (but still damn expensive, might as well get a PC).
Sony will try to match this, no doubt. But the scale required will be enormous. So again, what can they do?
What I think they should do first, is chill for a moment. Sony has always come up with great products in the past, but for some reason they never get the recognition. Their Xperia phones, specifically the Xperia Z, were among the first to be waterproof (or water-resistant?). They had a robot sphere that could light up and play music, when robots wasn’t a thing yet. (Granted, this little sphere thing was just a speaker that can do little dances.) They had a PlayStation phone, called the Xperia Play, which slides open to reveal analogue sticks. Then there was PlayStation Mobile, where you could play some older titles and some PSP games on that phone. There had been plans for AR as well. All of this, around 2011. But despite all that, their products receive little fanfare. (At least the Sony Walkman still exists, and they are very cool.)
Maybe because they don’t have a face, like how Steve Jobs was for Apple and Phil Spencer for Xbox, and Kevin Feige for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They do seem like the idea of products speaking for themselves. Maybe because they don’t push their products hard enough. Or maybe because their products can be very expensive, which doesn’t make much sense since Apple products themselves have prices that touch the heavens. I could watch YouTube videos and read some essays online on why could this be, but nah.
Microsoft bought Activision Blizzard because they could. They are a rich company, one of the Big Techs changing the world to fit their ideals. They sprint down a path to become richer, every pitstop is a means to get more money. And they will stop at nothing to achieve that. I don’t think Sony can compete with that. And if they continue to get beaten down, I can see a dreary future where Microsoft would acquire Sony’s PlayStation division, and people would compare it as big as Disney acquiring 21st Century Fox.
Right now, Sony’s best course of action is to strengthen their position in making top tier exclusive content. More HBO than Netflix. To do this, they need to:
- Treat their developers with more respect. Give them time to breathe and produce something extraordinary. Deadlines will still be a thing, of course, but not in a way that would force developers into crunch and reduced quality.
- Support more indie developers. Fund their projects, market them, give them timed-exclusivity, while giving them reasonable deals to create exclusive titles — and not lock them down in other projects they want to explore.
- Maybe it’s time to tap into big names to write game narratives. See what FromSoftware did with Elden Ring? The idea of playing a game with a backdrop written by A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) author, George R.R. Martin, got people talking and hyped.
- To further reiterate: Get authors like N.K. Jemisin and Brandon Sanderson to write, or collaborate with, for Broken Earth and Cosmere videogames. Reach out to Jordan Peel, Joe Hill, maybe even James Wan, or let’s go all the way to Stephen King, for horror games (we get way too much H.P. Lovecraft stuff, though Cthulhu will always be awesome). Grab Jeff VandeMeer and Pierce Brown, and many other amazing science fiction authors, for futuristic and weird games. These people have huge fans and many of them play games.
- Games set in the Green Bone Saga would be amazing, as an open world where you get to do what you want in a Grand Theft Auto style and face consequences for certain actions. A game called The Last Windrunner set during Recreance in Stormlight would be mind-blowing (they would have to do this in a way that doesn’t spoil the mysteries from books). And let’s all admit it, a massive open world game based on Malazan sounds incredibly epic. Give us a game based in the world of the KingKiller Chronicles, sprinkled with the legends and stories of Kvothe, and people are going to lose their freaking minds. There is no shortage of potential.
- Games like Dark Souls and The Elder Scrolls have proven that people love games with massive and interesting lore. Give them plenty for people to talk about. Give them creative vagueness and the community will bring life to it on its own.
- Since we are in the era of remakes and legacy sequels. We need a remake of Parasite Eve and Xenogears. A Xenogears sequel would be even better. Since Chrono Trigger is still damn popular, and we are hearing rumors of a Chrono Cross remaster (or a remake?), maybe it’s time we get our hands on Chrono Break? Yes, Brave Fencer Musashi is a Legend of Zelda ripoff. The same way Resident Evil was to Alone in the Dark. The same way how Final Fantasy was to Dragon Quest. Bring back Brave Fencer Musashi with new ideas, it’s going to be great. All of these, and more, as PlayStation exclusives.
- Didn’t badass filmmaker, Guillermo del Toro and Hideo Kojima tried to work on a videogame called Insanity? Where is that? Make that happen. Maybe it’s actually P.T. aka the canceled Silent Hills game featuring Walking Dead actor Norman Reedus.
- Maybe consider a successor to the PlayStation Vita, to rival mobile devices, such as phones, Nintendo Switch, and the Steam Deck. Better if it’s integrated to the next console. But that’s basically copying Nintendo.
- Revamp PlayStation Plus and PlayStation Now. Maybe even combine them. (Last I checked, these are two difference subscriptions?). Microsoft is gradually ditching the console wars and offering services. This is something Sony needs to study more and see how they can compete with this. If you ask me, all I can think of is adding movies and TV shows produced and distributed by Sony, at the same time, making original content to add value. The total cost of it would probably be crazy.
- Or, Sony can do nothing. They will continue to produce exclusives the same way they’ve always done. Continue making PlayStations until the diminishing returns of sales leads to a tragic loss of a legacy. People will mourn but they’ll have Xboxes and PCs to help them move on.
Of course I’m excited to see what they would try to do in the future. Everything I’ve listed above was nothing but wishful thinking. But I’m certain this isn’t the fall of the Sony PlayStation, at least not yet, when they could still pull so much from their sleeves, and with a dedicated fanbase.
Also, I realized I’ve been writing this little rant for too long. The length of this post could have fulfilled my writing quota that I continue to miss day after day. Well, at least I got my blood pumping and I’m ready to write about something else.