What Microsoft acquiring Activision Blizzard means for Nintendo Switch owners

Nintendo Switch Spyro
Nintendo Switch Spyro (Image credit: iMore)

You probably have heard by now that Microsoft is acquiring Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion. This deal brings several big franchises under Microsoft's wing, such as Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Candy Crush Saga, and so many others. Microsoft is no stranger to acquisitions, seeing as how it has already acquired several other studios like Bethesda, Double Fine Productions, and more within the last few years. As such Microsoft and Xbox are shaping up to hold a large part of the gaming market going forward. While the deal isn't expected to close until July 2023, there will be some changes that not only affect Microsoft fans but Nintendo fans as well.

You see, this is all happening amidst the Activision Blizzard lawsuit. Microsoft and Sony leaders both released statements saying they were appalled by the situation and Nintendo of America's president Doug Bowser called the Activision Blizzard situation 'distressing and disturbing". Bowser went on to state that the reported issues found at Activision Blizzard "run counter to my values as well as Nintendo's beliefs, values, and policies." As such, Nintendo leaders "have taken action and are assessing others."

Whether this is lip service or is backed by real action is hard to say. But if it is serious, it could be that Nintendo is unwilling to add more Activision Blizzard ports to Switch until the company cleans up its act. Even then, being acquired by Microsoft could mean these games are handled differently with Nintendo going forward.

The Activision Blizzard lawsuit A brief summary

Activision Blizzard Bobby Kotick (Image credit: iMore)

Yes, this acquisition is happening right in the middle of the Activision Blizzard lawsuit brought on by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) in July after several employees came forward stating the company had a "fratboy culture" that underpays and harasses female employees. Several truly disturbing accounts have been brought forward since and resulted in multiple employee walkouts.

Back on Nov. 16, tensions heightened when it was revealed through The Wall Street Journal that CEO Bobby Kotick not only knew about these sexual harassment allegations but had also actively worked to silence some of them. This led to over 1,000 employees signing a petition calling for Kotick's resignation and an impromptu employee walkout. Despite this, Kotick has remained in his position since. But as part of Microsoft's deal, Kotick will reportedly step down once everything has been finalized. Unfortunately, this deal more than likely includes a hefty paycheck for Kotick somewhere in the millions.

Will Microsoft acquire Nintendo?

Nintendo Switch Boxes (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / iMore)

Believe it or not, Microsoft already approached Nintendo about acquiring the company in 1999. According to a Bloomberg report, Nintendo just laughed in its face. "Like imagine an hour of somebody just laughing at you. That was kind of how that meeting went," said Kevin Bachus, a director of third-party relations for Xbox.

Nintendo has never really made moves you'd expect, but one thing is for sure. The Japanese gaming company is very proud of itself and willing to do things in the way it envisions without feeling pressure from competitors, even during their lowest lows, (the failed Wii U era, for example). Nintendo would never sell and considering how successful the Switch has been for the last 35 months, it's even less likely that Nintendo would be willing to enter into such a deal.

However, if we were in an alternate universe where Nintendo would ever consider it, how much would Nintendo even sell for? Video game journalist and presenter Geoff Keighley, best known as the host for The Game Awards noted in a tweet that the whole Activision Blizzard acquisition deal sold for $15 billion more than Nintendo's market cap, which is $53.79 billion. Still, that doesn't mean it's what Nintendo is worth.

As Keighley went on to explain, the "Activision offer was 45% above its current market cap." With the amount of nostalgia and recognizable characters under Nintendo's belt, Nintendo would sell for a hefty sum higher. But as it is, Nintendo won't sell. It will continue doing what it does best: being Nintendo, doing its own thing, and developing new games.

Activision Blizzard games on Nintendo Switch What is the worst and best case scenario?

Overwatch characters (Image credit: iMore)

There is one significant way that the Activision deal could affect Nintendo owners, but this likely won't be felt for several years since we have to wait for the acquisition to go through. Then, it will take time for current projects to actually change focus under Microsoft's leadership. Not to mention, it takes years for games to go from conception to release, so don't expect massive changes.

However, in order to figure out the worst-case scenario, we need to back up a little. Over the last few years, several Activision Blizzard ports have made their way onto Nintendo's hybrid gaming system. In fact, the Switch is kind of a port central for many older titles, including Wii U ports. While these haven't been the latest cutting-edge games, Activision Blizzard's contributions do involve popular franchises like Crash Bandicoot, Spyro, and even Overwatch. In the worst-case scenario, it's possible these games and other Activision Blizzard ports won't be available on Nintendo consoles going forward. But considering Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer's approach to the acquisition, that likely won't even be an issue.

Spencer told Bloomberg that Activision Blizzard games will continue to land on platforms outside of Xbox and PC.

Activision Blizzard games are enjoyed on a variety of platforms and we plan to continue to support those communities moving forward. I'll just say to players out there who are playing Activision Blizzard games on Sony's platform: It's not our intent to pull communities away from that platform and we remained committed to that."

While his statement focused on Sony, it's a good indicator of how things will go with Nintendo as well. In the best-case scenario, it's possible that Microsoft could be more forthcoming with ports and bring even more titles to Switch. But once again, it will take several years before we really start seeing a noticeable difference.

Will we finally get Xbox Game Pass on Switch?

Xbox Game Pass On Switch No Logo (Image credit: iMore)

With Microsoft holding so many gaming developers in its hands, many Switch fans have hoped for Xbox Game Pass to come to Nintendo Switch. After all, games with more intensive graphics would be playable on the hybrid system via cloud streaming. This even seemed to be a possibility thanks to the Epic Games vs. Apple trial, which revealed there were negotiations. between Nintendo and Microsoft.

Thing is, the Japanese gaming company has its own services it wants fans to subscribe to — namely, Nintendo Switch Online and Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack. Allowing an outside service on the Switch would divide the fanbase and could prevent several Switch owners from using their own services. As such opening up for an outside company's streaming service wouldn't be a choice Nintendo would make. So don't expect to see Xbox Game Pass on Switch.

What the future holds

As mentioned before, the acquisition doesn't finalize until July 2023. Microsoft has stated that it plans to "continue to support" communities on a variety of platforms going forward. So even if things seem up in the air at present, we won't really see any effects from this deal for a few years yet. Still, Nintendo fans don't really have anything to worry about.

Rebecca Spear
Gaming Editor

Gaming aficionado Rebecca Spear is iMore's dedicated gaming editor with a focus on Nintendo Switch and iOS gaming. You’ll never catch her without her Switch or her iPad Air handy. If you’ve got a question about Pokémon, The Legend of Zelda, or just about any other Nintendo series check out her guides to help you out. Rebecca has written thousands of articles in the last six years including hundreds of extensive gaming guides, previews, and reviews for both Switch and Apple Arcade. She also loves checking out new gaming accessories like iPhone controllers and has her ear to the ground when it comes to covering the next big trend.