Microsoft has now completed its $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard and taken ownership of a raft of huge gaming properties, not least among them Activision’s Call of Duty series. Microsoft is now theoretically free to add all Activision Blizzard games to its Game Pass subscription service on Xbox and PC. With the release of of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 on Nov. 10 edging ever closer, it’s natural to wonder when Call of Duty games — this latest installment in particular — will hit Game Pass.
When is Call of Duty coming to Game Pass?
Fortunately, we already have a partial answer. Activision Blizzard, moving to get ahead of speculation before the completion of the deal, said on Oct. 9 that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and its other big 2023 release, Diablo 4, won’t be added to Game Pass “this year.” But the company does plan to begin adding games to Game Pass in 2024.
“As we continue to work toward regulatory approval of the Microsoft deal, we’ve been getting some questions whether our upcoming and recently launched games will be available via Game Pass,” Activision Blizzard posted on X (formerly known as Twitter).
“While we do not have plans to put Modern Warfare III or Diablo IV into Game Pass this year, once the deal closes, we expect to start working with Xbox to bring our titles to more players around the world. And we anticipate that we would begin adding games into Game Pass sometime in the course of next year.”
It’s awesome to see anticipation building for Call of Duty®: Modern Warfare® III. As we continue to work toward regulatory approval of the Microsoft deal, we’ve been getting some questions whether our upcoming and recently launched games will be available via Game Pass.— Activision Blizzard (@ATVI_AB) October 9, 2023
Xbox chief Phil Spencer confirmed this timing on the official Xbox podcast on Oct. 17. “The regulatory process took so long [...] that we weren’t able to get in and work with Activision Blizzard on that back catalog work. Now that the deal is closed, we’re starting that work, but there is work.” Of Activision Blizzard saying none of its games would arrive on Game Pass before 2024, he said, “I think that’s accurate.”
“I would love it if there was some kind of secret celebration drop that’s coming in the next couple of weeks — there’s not,” Spencer continued. “The fact that we’re not hitting day one with a bunch of games dropping in to Game Pass is a little bit of a downer, but I’m very excited about the future.”
Activision Blizzard’s wording doesn’t categorically state that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Diablo 4 will come to Game Pass in 2024, but it certainly doesn’t rule it out, either.
We can make some educated guesses on roughly when Call of Duty and other Activision Blizzard games will be added to Game Pass, based on this statement, and on how quickly Bethesda games were added to Game Pass after Microsoft’s acquisition of its parent Zenimax Media.
When will old Call of Duty games come to Game Pass?
Microsoft began adding Bethesda games to Game Pass within weeks of that deal being completed in March 2021. The initial list ran to 20 games, but focused on back catalog titles. Bethesda’s next releases, Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo, were already tied up in PlayStation exclusivity arrangements; it wouldn’t be until this year that Bethesda would see day one Game Pass releases with Hi-Fi Rush, Redfall, and Starfield.
Activision Blizzard has ruled out adding games to Game Pass quite that quickly, but we can expect to see back catalog games — perhaps including older Call of Duty hits like the previous two Modern Warfare games — arrive on the service early in 2024. Recent releases may need to wait longer.
Although Activision Blizzard has no exclusivity arrangements with PlayStation, it does have a marketing deal with Sony for Modern Warfare 3 that will probably preclude that game’s arrival on Game Pass for anything from six months to a year. It also has a well established marketing and business plan for Call of Duty that works on an annual schedule, which Microsoft may not want to ride roughshod over. For those reasons, we’d expect to see Modern Warfare 3 on Game Pass toward the end of 2024 — perhaps in tandem with next year’s Call of Duty release.
When will other Activision Blizzard games like Diablo, World of Warcraft, and Overwatch come to Game Pass?
It’s unlikely that Activision Blizzard will be in a hurry to put Diablo 4 on Game Pass for similar reasons, although in this case, there isn’t a PlayStation marketing partnership that would hold it up. It might appear on the service a little sooner than Modern Warfare 3. Earlier Diablo games like Diablo 3 and Diablo 2: Resurrected would be good candidates for the first tranche of back-catalog games to be added for subscribers.
One of the biggest unknowns is World of Warcraft. The massively multiplayer game will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2024, but still enjoys a healthy audience which pays WoW’s own monthly subscription fee to play it. Will Microsoft be willing to cannibalize this revenue stream for the sake of what would be a unique and substantial value-add to Game Pass? Perhaps it will, but it’s a difficult calculation to make — so we wouldn’t expect to see it in the first wave of games added, if at all.
As for Overwatch 2, it’s a free-to-play game, so this is less relevant. But Game Pass subscribers have already received some perks for the title, including immediate unlocks for some of the game’s heroes. Further Overwatch 2 perks are a good candidate for addition to Game Pass early in 2024.
Update (Oct. 13): This article has been updated to reflect the completion of Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard on Oct. 13.
Update (Oct. 18): This article has been updated with comments from Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer.