As Microsoft-Activision merger nears, a classic FPS license reappears—for free

Enlarge / This week, the classic RPG-FPS series Heretic and Hexen series are back in a curious way.

While we at Ars Technica don’t necessarily cheer the moments when giant gaming conglomerates swallow up other giant gaming conglomerates, we also have a faction that champions efforts to preserve and re-release classic video games. These two philosophies collided this week, leaving us feeling a bit dizzy.

The bottom-line good news: Four underappreciated classics from the id Software universe are closer to a broader re-release and are currently free to download. This appears to be related to Microsoft’s planned $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard’s vast catalog of game publishing and development properties.

A Thursday announcement from Microsoft’s Xbox division confirmed that five “Bethesda” video games were now available on modern Windows PCs via the Microsoft Store, albeit through an unusual path. These games, including the two earliest Elder Scrolls adventures and three fantasy-tinged shooters from the combined Heretic and Hexen series, would need to be accessed through the Xbox Insider Hub on Windows 10 and Windows 11 PCs, as they were “previews” meant to solicit “feedback.” Joining the Xbox Insider Hub on Windows PCs is free and does not require a Game Pass subscription, which means these games are now free to download for participating members (at least until MS revokes their availability on the Insider Hub).

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