Microsoft Activision Deal: Xbox Bets Big on Cloud Gaming with Nvidia, Nintendo Agreements

Microsoft has signed a pair of deals with Nintendo and Nvidia to guarantee Call of Duty releases on their respective platforms. Although the announcement was light on specifics, it’s a big shot in the arm for Nvidia’s cloud gaming service and could signal that the Nintendo Switch’s successor will be more of a competitor to traditional consoles and PC gaming.

Promises, Promises
The two deals Microsoft has signed are largely similar, with Nvidia’s agreement also including additional Xbox and Activision games. For Nintendo, Microsoft is promising “a binding 10-year legal agreement to bring Call of Duty to Nintendo players – the same day as Xbox, with full feature and content parity.” At face value, it’s an extraordinary development given the last Call of Duty on a Nintendo console was 2013’s port of Call of Duty: Ghosts.

The more significant deal is the one Microsoft has struck with Nvidia for cloud gaming. The two companies announced a 10-year partnership that will see the addition of Xbox games to GeForce Now. Additionally, GeForce Now will receive COD and other Activision Blizzard PC titles once Microsoft’s acquisition of the company is complete.

Another Win for Cloud Gaming
The deal is a major win for Nvidia and Microsoft. In the short term, this deal secures Nvidia’s support – or, at least, lack of opposition – to the $69 billion Microsoft Activision deal. Long term, Microsoft will still get to pocket game sales revenue since GeForce Now operates under a buy-to-play, not a la carte model. GeForce Now – which is arguably the most technologically advanced game streaming option currently – will be even more attractive with the addition of Call of Duty and Xbox PC titles like Age of Empires.

The Devil in the Details
The addition of COD will help compensate for Nintendo’s traditional Achille's heel of lacking first-person shooter titles. If Nintendo is truly receiving the same Call of Duty releases as PC, Xbox, and PlayStation, how will Nintendo achieve this? Since the GameCube, Nintendo has shunned powerful hardware in favor of other advantages, such as the Switch’s portability. These leaves a couple tantalizing possibilities.
  • The Switch’s successor will be as powerful as the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S – and likely less portable.
    • A Call of Duty Nintendo Switch port seems unlikely given the Switch is near the end of its life cycle.
  • Microsoft intends to rely on porting a less demanding title like Call of Duty: Mobile to PC, console, and Nintendo.
  • Nintendo may rely on cloud gaming to get around hardware limitations and make modern AAA titles playable on its less powerful consoles.
A Future Without Ownership
In the long run, Microsoft’s moves – in particular, its deal with GeForce Now – are one more step in the trend of making the gaming a business of subscriptions, not ownership. It’s a future that would upend the traditional buy-it-and-you-own it model of gaming hardware. 
Featured image courtesy of Nvidia