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Microsoft plans to make the next Call of Duty a day-one release on Xbox Game Pass

In context: Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer recently confirmed the company’s ambition to bring Activision Blizzard games to the Xbox Game Pass subscription service. The Xbox division will likely formalize the plan next month as it introduces the next installment in the Call of Duty series.

The enormously successful Call of Duty franchise has entertained first-person shooter fans on all platforms since 2003. The title is one of the main reasons Microsoft fought tooth and nail for approval of its $69 billion Activision Blizzard acquisition. Redmond’s gaming arm has fully embraced a subscription-based future, with the idea of bringing its Game Pass service to other competing platforms in addition to Xbox and PC.

While third-party, gamer-focused companies still resist the urge to go all in with this supposedly unavoidable cloud-based future, Microsoft is willing to exploit Activision Blizzard’s IP portfolio as a promotional tool for Game Pass. The Wall Street Journal reports that Xbox will announce the debut of Call of Duty on Game Pass during a showcase scheduled for June.

The Call of Duty franchise has sold over 425 million units as of October 2023. In addition to sales earnings, Activision collects additional revenue through its in-game stores and microtransactions. The next game in the series arrives in October this year, barring any upsets. The game features a dramatic setting change, transitioning from World War III (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III) to the 1990s Gulf War.

One of the main arguments against the Activision Blizzard acquisition was Microsoft’s ability to turn Call of Duty into a PC/Xbox exclusive. Although Microsoft signed a 10-year agreement to keep the cash cow on Sony’s PlayStation platform for the next 10 years, the contract does not prevent Xbox from releasing it as a day-one title on Xbox Game Pass, a move that could prove equally disruptive. It would be the first real change to Activision’s traditional business model imposed by its new owner.

Microsoft expects to introduce the upcoming plans for Xbox on June 9, with a new Gears of War game and many other interesting tidbits. We can expect to hear news on Flight Simulator 2024, Avowed, Indiana Jones and the Great Circle, and more. The Call of Duty series will have a separate broadcast after the main Xbox show.

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