This year’s Call of Duty will go straight to Game Pass, report says

Microsoft intends to put its $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard to use by releasing the next Call of Duty game directly on its Game Pass subscription service, the Wall Street Journal reports. The WSJ says the plan will be announced at Xbox’s annual summer showcase on June 9.

The move has been expected ever since Microsoft first announced its intention to buy the publisher. Call of Duty is Activision’s biggest franchise, and its potential value to Game Pass was assumed to be the crown jewel of the acquisition — particularly after Microsoft made it clear that it would not consider making Call of Duty games console-exclusive to Xbox.

But there were still persistent doubts that Microsoft would pull the trigger and make Call of Duty a day-one Game Pass release. The series, which sees a new full-price release every calendar year, is enormously lucrative, selling around 25 million copies annually. The financial wisdom of allowing those sales to be cannibalized as a loss-leader to grow subscription numbers has been questioned.

There have been some signs that Microsoft was cooling on Game Pass as a business model, too. The company only recently ended a two-year silence on subscriber numbers (they stand at 34 million, apparently), and Microsoft gaming chief Phil Spencer has admitted to a slowdown in growth. A recent move toward multiplatform publishing indicated that Microsoft is more focused on maximizing profit by selling games wherever possible than in investing in its platforms. And some interpreted the closure of the studios Tango Gameworks and Arkane Austin as a sign that Microsoft was more interested in making games with strong sales potential than in stocking Game Pass with a broad range of titles, which had seemed to be its goal during its long studio acquisition spree.

In that context, sacrificing sales by putting the latest Call of Duty on Game Pass is a clear sign that Microsoft is committed to the service — and that Plan A is still very much in effect.