Just when it seemed like Microsoft might be losing ground in the console war against competitor Sony, a stunning piece of news hit the web today. Microsoft is closing out a deal to purchase ZeniMax Media Inc., the parent company of several popular studios — including Bethesda Softworks, of Elder Scrolls and Fallout fame — for a whopping $7.5 billion.
It’s difficult to fully comprehend the staggering impact and breadth of this deal without context, so we’ll attempt to break things down a bit below.
First of all, as we said before, this acquisition will give Microsoft direct control over the famous Elder Scrolls and Fallout series — two of the biggest and most popular franchises in gaming, with decades of combined history (and millions of fans) behind them.
Ideally, Microsoft’s money will lead to better games, so perhaps the scope of titles like Starfield and The Elder Scrolls 6 can be expanded over the coming years.
This acquisition also means Bethesda will no longer be competing directly against Obsidian. From what we can tell, the studios will be making similar titles moving forward. Avowed is a great example of that: it was supposed to be Obsidian’s big answer to Skyrim.
This might mean the teams will be able to share talent and expertise, once again leading to better games in the end (and perhaps even a direct successor to the fantastic Fallout: New Vegas).
Aside from Bethesda Game Studios, Microsoft’s upcoming acquisition will give it Elder Scrolls Online, id Software (the team behind Doom and Quake), Arkane, Machine Games, Tango Gameworks, and more.
Microsoft’s decision to snag ZeniMax was the perfect answer to the PlayStation 5’s growing popularity. With a lack of particularly strong first-party exclusives, the Xbox Series X was arguably beginning to lose traction, but with this deal in the works, things could change quite a bit.
If future Bethesda games, such as Starfield or The Elder Scrolls 6, are indeed Xbox Series X exclusives, it will be a massive blow to Sony. After all, not everyone that plays those games has a PC, and potential exclusivity might just be enough to convince them to buy into Microsoft’s ecosystem.
The real winners in this deal are PC gamers like us. Since Microsoft won’t be selling any Xbox Series X-only exclusives (all of their games will be on both PC and console), we will continue to be able to play the biggest hits from ZeniMax’s various subsidiaries; and likely for a low monthly fee, on day one, through services like Xbox Game Pass or XCloud.
Of course, it’s reasonable to feel disappointed or concerned about this news. Microsoft having so much control over such a large segment of the gaming industry is definitely cause for alarm, and it’s always sad to see a once-independent studio like Bethesda join one of the big guys.
However, if nothing else, we’re interested to see how this news may impact the industry as a whole over the next few years. The acquisition should close sometime in the second half of FY 2021, so stay tuned for more details down the line.