Microsoft made waves in the gaming world on Monday when it announced its purchase of ZeniMax Media—the parent company of Bethesda Softworks—for a massive sum of $7.5 billion. The all-cash acquisition gives Microsoft several new franchises, including “Fallout,” “The Elder Scrolls,” “Doom,” “Wolfenstein,” and more.
Along with control of some of the industry’s most popular titles, Microsoft has expanded its portfolio of in-house development studios to 23. That’s a big increase from the 15 it held prior to the acquisition.
The tech giant plans to run Bethesda as its own division and will keep the current leadership and structure intact. That’s good news for gamers. However, there is plenty more to know about this landmark deal.
The Bethesda acquisition seemingly came out of nowhere on Monday. While the two companies have been close partners for many years, it was a surprise that Microsoft actually bought the studio.
In a statement, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says, “As a proven game developer and publisher, Bethesda has seen success across every category of games, and together, we will further our ambition to empower the more than three billion gamers worldwide.”
Meanwhile, ZeniMax CEO Robert Altman said, “The big winners today are our fans. Our games can only get better.”
Microsoft hasn’t shied away from ditching industry norms in recent years. Its pricey acquisition shows that it isn’t playing on the same field as Sony when it comes to exclusivity. In the past, Sony has acquired developers, only to turn their products into PlayStation exclusives like “Spider-Man” and “Horizon Zero Dawn.”
It doesn’t appear that Microsoft will take this approach with its Bethesda acquisition. Some of the studios included in the deal are working on titles that were previously slated to become PS5 exclusives. PlayStation fans can breathe a sigh of relief.
Xbox head Phil Spencer noted that those games will still arrive on PS5. However, they will also come to Xbox in the future. Moving forward, games developed by Microsoft’s new studios will be available for Xbox, PC, and Game Pass. Spencer says that the company will handle other consoles (yes, the PS5) “on a case-by-case basis.”
Xbox Gets Stronger
Perhaps the most notable part of Microsoft’s Bethesda deal is the immediate boost that Xbox Game Pass receives. The subscription service is now even more attractive to players who want to enjoy their favorite franchises without paying for each game.
Soon, players will be able to enjoy hit Bethesda titles through Game Pass and on xCloud, Microsoft’s game streaming service. That’s something that Sony simply can’t compete with.
So, while Xbox players can’t enjoy games like “Spider-Man: Miles Morales” when the next-gen consoles arrive, they’ll have access to a ton of other titles that don’t cost $60 each. Rather than competing directly, Microsoft and Sony are diverging with unique approaches. Sony’s is tried and true. Microsoft’s is shaking up the industry.
It will be telling to see which console giant wins this generation of gamers. With its recent acquisition and the strength of Game Pass, Microsoft certainly appears to have an early advantage.