Xbox Series X pre-orders begin tomorrow, but Microsoft didn’t want to make fans wait that long for big news. The Xbox manufacturer just announced that it had acquired ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Bethesda Softworks. Practically speaking, that means Microsoft now owns the rights to The Elder Scrolls, Doom, Wolfenstein, Dishonored and, perhaps most importantly, the upcoming sci-fi RPG Starfield.
Information comes from a long post in the Xbox Wire blog by Xbox head Phil Spencer himself. There’s a lot of information about the series that Bethesda has produced over the years, and how Spencer has worked closely with the Bethesda staff before. The bottom line is clear, though: Microsoft now owns the rights to a number of modern gaming’s most popular franchises. What’s less clear is how — or whether — these franchises will be available on competing consoles in the future, particularly Sony’s PS5.
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The first thing to point out is that while Microsoft acquiring Bethesda is, indeed, big news, the blog post doesn’t lay out any immediate next steps. As Bloomberg reports, the $7.5 billion deal is expected to close by the second quarter of 2021. Game production is a big, unwieldy beast, and anything that’s been in development for a while will probably continue as before. Deathloop — Bethesda’s next big release, and a PS5 launch exclusive — will likely still come to the PS5. Doom Eternal’s big single-player DLC, The Ancient Gods, will probably still be available on all platforms.
What’s more interesting is what will happen with Bethesda’s currently unannounced or unspecified projects. Will the next Elder Scrolls game or Starfield be exclusive to Xbox consoles? Furthermore, at what point will Bethesda stop supporting its titles on PS4 and Switch, if at all? Remember, it’s not necessarily unprecedented for a Microsoft-owned franchise to receive continuing support on other platforms. Minecraft is a prime example.
One comforting though, at least for PC gamers, is that Bethesda franchises will likely continue to be available on PC, just the same as before. Microsoft has committed itself to releasing every major Xbox game on PC as well, and has recently added some very popular titles (such as Halo: The Master Chief Collection) to Steam to demonstrate that it’s serious. For a long time, Bethesda was just about synonymous with PC gaming, and Microsoft is probably not looking to change that. Future Bethesda titles will also come to the Xbox Game Pass on day one.
In fact, gamers who owned original Xboxes may remember that this is not the first time Bethesda has made an unprecedented deal with Microsoft. When The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind debuted on the Xbox, it represented a big break with tradition. Until then, the Elder Scrolls series has been available only on PC, at least partially because consoles generally couldn’t support a title that was so big and complex. While Elder Scrolls games later came to Sony consoles (and just about every other console imaginable), the collaboration did indeed kick off with Microsoft.
For now, we can say that Microsoft has acquired Bethesda, and that the company’s existing plans probably won’t change in the near future. After that, the Xbox could have some very interesting exclusive franchises to its name.
UPDATE: A tweet from Bloomberg's Jason Schreier clarifies that while all future Bethesda releases will appear on Xbox and PC, other console releases will be possible on a "case by case basis."
To answer the question everyone is asking: Phil Spencer tells @dinabass that Xbox plans to honor the PS5 exclusivity commitment for Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo.Future Bethesda games will be on Xbox, PC, and "other consoles on a case by case basis." https://t.co/Agyttr53LOSeptember 21, 2020
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