In a huge move, Microsoft have just announced that they are acquiring ZeniMax Media, the parent company of publisher Bethesda Softworks, for $7.5 billion in cash. This means that when Microsoft complete the acquisition they will own a slew of new major franchises that include Doom, Fallout, Wolfenstein, The Elder Scrolls, Starfield, Dishonored, Prey and more.
Update: In a blog post by Pete Hines of Bethesda, he has clarified that the publisher will still publish games independently of the Xbox Game Studios brand. We have amended the story below. Additionally, the deal is expected to close by the end of June 2021, which is the end of Microsoft’s fiscal year.
Update 2: Speaking to Bloomberg, Phil Spencer has confirmed that existing deals will be honoured, so Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo will still have timed exclusivity on PS5, but that future games will all be on Xbox and PC and “other consoles on a case by case basis.”
Today is a special day… We are THRILLED to welcome the talented teams and beloved game franchises of @Bethesda to Team Xbox!
— Xbox (@Xbox) September 21, 2020
The acquisition signals a vast expansion of Microsoft’s game development business, as Bethesda Softworks, Bethesda Game Studios, id Software, ZeniMax Online Studios, Arkane, MachineGames, Tango Gameworks, Alpha Dog and Roundhouse Studios all join the company.
Bethesda games will be added into Xbox Game Pass over the coming months, and future releases will be added to Game Pass on day one, as with all other Xbox Game Studios titles. With the rising cost of games on next-gen, it’s yet another massive draw into Microsoft’s game subscription.
What’s not clear is what this means for their games on other platforms. Bethesda’s Pete Hines explains that Bethesda’s studios “are still working on the same games we were yesterday, made by the same studios we’ve worked with for years, and those games will be published by us.”
This will certainly mean that existing partnerships and deals will continue, so Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo will remain PlayStation 5 timed exclusives when they launch in 2021, while The Elder Scrolls Online and Fallout 76 will continue as cross-platform games. The real question is whether or not the next Elder Scrolls game, the next Doom, the next Wolfenstein or the highly anticipated Starfield will shift to being Xbox and Windows 10 exclusives.
Phil Spencer wrote in the announcement:
Bethesda’s games have always had a special place on Xbox and in the hearts of millions of gamers around the world. Our teams have a close and storied history working together, from the amazing first DOOM, and its id Tech engine, innovating games on PCs to Bethesda bringing their first console game to the original Xbox, the groundbreaking The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. Over the years I’ve had many deep conversations with the creative leaders at Bethesda on the future of gaming and we’ve long shared similar visions for the opportunities for creators and their games to reach more players in more ways.
Just as they took the bold first steps to bring The Elder Scrolls franchise to the original Xbox, Bethesda were early supporters of Xbox Game Pass, bringing their games to new audiences across devices and have been actively investing in new gaming technology like cloud streaming of games. We will be adding Bethesda’s iconic franchises to Xbox Game Pass for console and PC. One of the things that has me most excited is seeing the roadmap with Bethesda’s future games, some announced and many unannounced, to Xbox console and PC including Starfield, the highly anticipated, new space epic currently in development by Bethesda Game Studios.