×
Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

This Xbox buy just turned gaming on its head

If you thought Microsoft was done buying new studios, guess again. Despite going on a spending spree these past few years, acquiring studios like Obsidian, Ninja Theory, and Double Fine, it seems the company had another card ready to play. Earlier this morning, Microsoft announced it is purchasing ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Bethesda. This move is already sending shockwaves throughout the gaming industry, as everyone grapples with what it means for Bethesda titles and for Xbox going forward.

As part of the acquisition, Microsoft will get all of publisher Bethesda Softworks and every studio in the Bethesda family. These studios include Alpha Dog, Arkane, Bethesda Game Studios, id Software, MachineGames, Roundhouse Studios, Tango Gameworks, and ZeniMax Online Studios.

On top of that, a number of cherished Bethesda properties — and some that haven't even debuted yet — will fly under the Xbox banner going forward. These include The Elder ScrollsFalloutDoomWolfensteinDishonoredPreyThe Evil Within, and Starfield. That is quite the haul. According to Bloomberg, the purchase will end up costing Microsoft somewhere in the neighborhood of $7.5 billion.

In the short term, at least, Microsoft's acquisition of Bethesda will be a real win for Xbox Game Pass subscribers.

"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," Microsoft's Phil Spencer wrote in his announcement post. "We will be adding Bethesda's iconic franchises to Xbox Game Pass for console and PC."

There are some questions, however, around some of the PlayStation 5 timed exclusives Bethesda has lined up. Both Deathloop and GhostWire: Tokyo are currently set to appear on PS5 for a limited time before making their way to other platforms.Will those timed exclusivity deals remain in place now? Or is there some way Microsoft could potentially end that arrangement, stealing two titles Sony has shown off extensively in the process?

According to Bloomberg's Jason Schreier, Microsoft "plans to honor the PS5 exclusivity commitment for Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo." But even without that confirmation, one could have looked to a title like Psychonauts 2 for the answer.

As Microsoft has shown these past few years, it's not necessarily averse to publishing games on competing platforms. Minecraft, for example, is available just about everywhere. Ori and the Blind Forest and its sequel, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, are both available on Nintendo Switch. When Microsoft purchased Double Fine, it had the opportunity to pull Psychonauts 2 back from eager PlayStation fans, instead making it an Xbox exclusive. However, the company didn't do that. Instead, Psychonauts 2 is set to release on PlayStation platforms as originally planned.

The same thing appears to be happening with Deathloop and GhostWire: Tokyo. Even though Microsoft will own the studios making these games, they were already promised to a particular platform in the PS5. Sony, for its part, has done a lot to drum up interest in both titles, giving them time in PlayStation showcases on multiple occasions. Microsoft might feel there's some upside — both in terms of sales and goodwill — in letting these games come to PS5 as scheduled.

As for the rest of Bethesda's properties, however, Microsoft might not be so generous.

You can look to the Hellblade franchise for an example of how Microsoft might handle franchises like The Elder Scrolls and DoomHellblade: Senua's Sacrifice was originally a PlayStation 4 release that, after some time, made its way to Xbox One. Though there are many Hellblade fans in PlayStation land, Microsoft plans to keep its sequel – Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2 — exclusive to Xbox. Microsoft may do something similar with The Outer Worlds, too. Though the first game was a multi-platform release, there's no guarantee a potential sequel will get similar treatment. In fact, Microsoft's Matt Booty told The Game Informer Show that the company hopes to grow The Outer Worlds into a long-lasting Xbox franchise.

It would no doubt be weird to see The Elder Scrolls 6 announced as an Xbox exclusive. It would be odd to hear that the next Fallout game isn't coming to PlayStation platforms at all. But that is the business of video games. Just as Sony scooped up Insomniac, ending all hopes of a sequel to Sunset Overdrive on Xbox, Microsoft is acquiring Bethesda, all of its studios, and all of its properties. It's reportedly spending a lot of money to make the deal happen, so fans shouldn't be surprised if some of their favorite Bethesda franchises lean more toward Xbox going forward.

That doesn't mean multi-platform releases are off the table. Jason Schreier wrote on Twitter that Microsoft plans to look at Bethesda's franchises "on a case by case basis" when it comes to releasing them on other platforms. But those other platforms could end up being Nintendo Switch and that's it. Microsoft seems to like putting games on that system, and Bethesda already has a built-in audience there thanks to ports of Skyrim and Doom.

As we stated at the jump, this is big news, and the story is developing pretty rapidly. Should more details emerge about Microsoft's acquisition of Bethesda, we'll be sure to get you an update.