Microsoft is giving select PC gamers free access to four classic games by Bethesda and id Software, which it acquired as part of its $7.5 billion ZeniMax purchase in 2020. And three of them wouldn’t have been released if the tech giant isn’t acquiring Activision Blizzard, as well. In a post on the Xbox blog, Microsoft has revealed that Xbox Insiders on Windows PC can now preview Heretic: Shadow of the Serpent Riders, HeXen: Beyond Heretic, HeXen: Deathkings of the Dark Citadel, The Elder Scrolls: Arena and Quake Champions.
It’s not surprising that the offer is only available for PC users part of Microsoft’s Insider program — as Ars Technica notes, the first four games in the list were originally released in the mid-90s and run via DOSBox emulation. DOSBox runs software for MS-DOS compatible games, but it’s a pretty inelegant solution for making old titles playable.
The Elder Scrolls: Arena is an open-world action RPG published by Bethesda, with a first person perspective and features melee combat and magic. Meanwhile, Heretic, its sequel HeXen: Beyond Heretic and the latter’s expansion pack, HeXen: Deathkings of the Dark Citadel, are all first-person dark fantasy shooters. They were built using a modified version of the Doom engine, and though they were published by id Software, they were developed by Raven Software. Activision acquired the rights to those games when it purchased Raven in 1997.
Microsoft first announced that it’s purchasing Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion in January this year and expects the deal to close no later than June 2023 if regulators give it their approval. It’s an all-cash deal that values Activision at $95 a share. Microsoft plans to add Activision Blizzard games to the Xbox Game Pass as part of the acquisition, and some of those games may be like the Heretic-HeXen series, which Activision doesn’t fully own.