On Sept. 21 Phil Spencer, head of Xbox, announced that “Microsoft has entered into an agreement to acquire ZeniMax Media, parent company of Bethesda Softworks.”
The company was acquired for the large sum of $7.5 billion. This is the second largest acquisition in the game industry’s history following Tencent’s buyout of Supercell in 2016.
In his announcement, Phil Spencer writes that “Bethesda 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.” There has been a mutual relationship between the two companies ever since the release of “The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind” on the original Xbox.
It seems that Xbox is pushing for its Xbox Game Pass service with this new acquisition. Xbox Game pass is a subscription-based service in which a monthly or yearly fee grants access to a plethora of titles and Xbox exclusives. The service has over 15 million subscribers and is available on Xbox consoles, PC and mobile devices. Their new xCloud service will also offer game streaming to mobile devices.
The Bethesda title “Fallout 76” is already available on Xbox Game Pass and it has been announced that “Doom Eternal” from earlier this year will be hitting the service on Oct. 1 and will arrive on other platforms later this year.
Many people are speculating that the announced games “Starfield” and “The Elder Scrolls VI” will not only come to Game Pass but be Microsoft exclusives. “Starfield” is new IP for Bethesda game studios and is a space role playing game that was announced back in 2018. The release date has not been announced yet but 2021 is a safe prediction.
The long-awaited sequel to “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” was announced in 2018 as well and is currently in development. The franchise has a history of being multi-platform despite originating on PC. If “The Elder Scrolls VI” is a Microsoft exclusive, it will be a major blow against Sony in this upcoming console cycle. By 2016, “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” sold at least 30 million copies.
In 2018, Microsoft acquired Obsidian Entertainment, a studio famous for “Fallout: New Vegas” and “The Outer Worlds.” Now that Microsoft has both Obsidian Entertainment and Bethesda Softworks, there is much discussion and fan excitement over the idea of Obsidian working on another “Fallout” title. 2010’s “Fallout: New Vegas” is a fan favorite of the series and has gained a massive cult following since its release. Bethesda has updated the franchise with the releases of “Fallout 4” and “Fallout 76” since then, but many fans still prefer Obsidians take on the franchise.
“Fallout” and “The Elder Scrolls” are not the only franchises that were obtained from this acquisition. Microsoft will now have the following studios: Arkane, Alpha Dog, Bethesda game Studios, Id Software, Machine Games, Roundhouse Studios and Tango Gameworks. Consequently, they now own the following Ips as well: “Doom,” “Dishonored,” “Fallout,” “Prey,” “Starfield,” “The Elder Scrolls,” “The Evil Within” and “Wolfenstein.”
If upcoming titles from Bethesda Softworks hit Game Pass on launch day, it be likely be a massive success for Xbox. Some Consumers are attracted to the cheap monthly price point of Game Pass’s $15 rather than pay $60 for most new titles. This is especially competitive of Microsoft when you consider that many next-generation titles will push the price to $70.
Since the company spent $7.5 billion on the purchase of ZeniMax, they will most likely monetize their investment in some way other than Game Pass. The exclusivity of future titles to Xbox and PC only is very likely.
This deal between Microsoft and ZeniMax is a game-changer for the industry and a real challenge to Sony. Many fans have speculated as to whether or not Sony will follow up this event with an acquisition of their own. Perhaps Square Enix, the developers of “Final Fantasy” or From Software the developers of the “Dark Souls” series. Both developers have a history with Sony as exclusives.
Regardless this is a big win for Microsoft and an opportunity to bolster the pre-orders for their next-generation consoles, which launch on Nov. 10.