Microsoft announced its acquisition of ZeniMax Media, the parent company to videogame developer Bethesda Softworks, for $7.5 billion.
The purchase comes only a few months away from the release of the Xbox X and its competitor, the PlayStation 5, the next generation of consoles.
“With the addition of Bethesda, Microsoft will grow from 15 to 23 creative studio teams and will be adding Bethesda’s iconic franchises to Xbox Game Pass,” Microsoft said in a press release. “This includes Microsoft’s intent to bring Bethesda’s future games into Xbox Game Pass the same day they launch on Xbox or PC.”
Microsoft is continuing to look for ways to make its videogame console more appealing to consumers, with its last console, the Xbox One, blown out of the water by the PlayStation 4. With Microsoft’s ownership of Bethesda, popular role-playing games (RPGs) like the Elder Scrolls series and Fallout face the likely possibility of becoming Xbox exclusives, meaning some consumers may opt for an Xbox to play those games.
Phil Spencer, executive vice president of gaming at Microsoft, told Bloomberg that Bethesda’s PlayStation 5 exclusives Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo will remain that way, but other non-Xbox games will be considered on a “case-by-case basis.”
Xbox exclusives could be one reason the company has struggled to sell more consoles. Halo is its most iconic franchise, but Xbox’s few exclusives have become repetitive, while PlayStation exclusives like God of War and Uncharted are hits.
Microsoft’s gaming branch rescheduled Halo Infinite for release in the second half of the fiscal year 2021, meaning that Xbox X customers will have to wait, putting more pressure on Xbox to spark interest for the new console and future projects.
Some analysts are speculating what the deal could mean for both Xbox and Bethesda in the future.
“Bethesda has historically made humongous bets on expensive games, making its money back (and more) by selling its most successful games on every platform possible, then selling remasters, remakes, and VR spinoffs,” Polygon contributor Chris Plante wrote in an analysis. “I struggle to imagine Microsoft making back the budgets of games like Starfield and the next Elder Scrolls by making them Xbox exclusives. That said, Microsoft doesn’t seem interested in Xbox exclusives anyway.”
Still, that could depend on the success of Bethesda’s games on Xbox consoles, and release dates could prioritize Microsoft over competitors.
As for the developer’s upcoming games Starfield and The Elder Scrolls VI, Bethesda provided a subtle update after news broke of the Microsoft acquisition.
“These new systems are optimized for the vast worlds we love to create, with generational leaps not just in graphics, but CPU and data streaming as well,” Bethesda’s director and executive producer Todd Howard said in a statement about its partnership with Xbox. “It’s led to our largest engine overhaul since Oblivion, with all new technologies powering our first new IP in 25 years, Starfield, as well as The Elder Scrolls VI.”