Former Xbox boss remembers Microsoft’s attempt to buy Blizzard, Westwood Back In The Day

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Screenshot: Command & Conquer

It’s 2022 and Microsoft is in the process of tying up a deal to buy Blizzard. However, this is not the first time that the computer giant is trying to buy the company; according to Ed Fries, who led the development of the first Xbox console, it actually is third.

In an interview with The XboxEra podcast, Fries is asked if there were any “game acquisitions” he wished he had been able to complete in his time at Microsoft. He is surprisingly honest (and detailed) in his answer (the video below should start playing on the relevant question):

The big story here for many people is that he says Microsoft tried to buy Blizzard not once, but twice, which would make this third attempt to buy the company behind WarCraft and Diablo. I’m actually more interested in Fries’ second revelation, where he says that Microsoft made an attempt to buy Westwood Studios, a name that may not mean much to younger readers, but which for a period was one of the biggest and most successful developers. of PC games on the planet.

From Klit 2 to Command & Conquer, Red alarm to Blade Runner, everything Westwood touched turned to gold, so it was expected that big companies would start sniffing around and trying to pick them up. And while it’s impossible to actually walk through one of those sliding doors and see what life would have been like if Microsoft had bought Westwood, it would certainly have been a better result than the one we actually got, which saw EA buy them for $ 120 million. in 1998 then shut them down only five years later.

It’s also really interesting to listen to Fries talk about the motivations for both potential (and ultimately failed) acquisitions: the real-time strategy genre, and how the hell big and important it was 20-25 years ago. That was the key to Microsoft’s own efforts in the PC space at the time (with Age of Empires), and was the reason for both Blizzard (WarCraft 3) and Westwood (C&C) was looked at here. It’s a good reminder that just as popular as today’s games are, who knows in 20 years’ time what genres and experiences we’ve moved on to!