Activision, the video game company formed in 1979 by four former Atari employees, has been acquired by Microsoft for US$68.7 billion. The purchase process began in January 2022, and after many rounds of national and international scrutiny for potential monopolistic practices, the acquisition was completed this month.
The March 2022 issue of Juiced.GS featured an in-depth story about the history and intersection of Activision and the Apple II, including their publication of games such as Rescue on Fractalus!, Pitfall II: Lost Caverns, Mindshadow, and Tass Times in Tonetown.
Microsoft [now] owns all the classic Infocom games … They own the rights to sell the games. They own the rights to make more Zork spinoffs …
[But] Microsoft-the-company does not care about Infocom. But a lot of people in Microsoft must care. Microsoft is heavily populated by greying GenX nerds just like me. Folks who grew up with the first home computers and fondly remember the games of the early 1980s.
To those nerds, I direct this request:
It is time to do right by the memory of Infocom. It is time to let it go.Andrew Plotkin, “Microsoft consumes Activision; and a plea“
Plotkin proceeds to envision a future where the existing archives of Infocom games, source code, and metadata are recognized under Creative Commons. On one hand, this seems unlikely, as Microsoft has little incentive to relinquish an intellectual property from which they might later profit. But on the other hand, there’s no recent history of Infocom proving a lucrative license — the last time I’m aware of Activision even acknowledging this property is when Zork appeared as an Easter egg in the 2010 game Call of Duty: Black Ops. If Microsoft exploits Infocom as little as Activision did, then they may as well let it go, just as Apple worked with the Computer History Museum to make available the source code for Apple II DOS and the Lisa OS as historical artifacts.
With Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision only recently finalized, it’ll be awhile yet before we see the results. In the meantime, fans of interactive fiction can get a second-hand Infocom fix by listening to Kay Savetz and Carrington Vanston’s Eaten by a Grue podcast.