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Bethesda Director Breaks His Silence On Elder Scrolls Exclusivity

Late last month, Microsoft shocked the gaming industry and fans when it announced its purchase of ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Bethesda. Almost immediately, fans began to panic over the futures of their favorite franchises. What would happen to the Wolfenstein franchise? Would Doom become an Xbox exclusive? What would Microsoft's purchase of Bethesda mean for The Elder Scrolls, which is set to finally continue with The Elder Scrolls 6? Luckily, some of those burning questions are closer to being answered.

GamesIndustry.biz recently had a chance to chat with Bethesda director Todd Howard. One of the main topics of discussions was whether or not future installments of Bethesda's big franchises, like The Elder Scrolls, would be solely released on Microsoft's platforms.

Howard said he wasn't sure exactly what the future holds for the Elder Scrolls franchise in particular. However, he did remind fans that Bethesda has partnered with Microsoft in the past for various forms of exclusive Elder Scrolls content. 

Howard explained, "If you look at every Elder Scrolls game, there has been some exclusivity on Xbox or with Microsoft. We've partnered with every game. Morrowind was basically a console exclusive, Oblivion was a long timed exclusive, Skyrim's DLC was exclusive for a long period of time. We'll decide what makes the best sense for our audience when the time comes, and I can't really project today what that looks like."

In other words, it wouldn't necessarily signify a massive shift in power if the next Elder Scrolls game became an Xbox exclusive. Instead, Howard seems to view Microsoft's newest purchase as an evolution of a longstanding partnership. Howard also explained that he appreciated Xbox's messaging surrounding the availability of games. Xbox's Phil Spencer has said on a few occasions that he believes console exclusivity runs counter to what gaming should be all about, which Howard seems to agree with. 

"We felt very strongly about their view of access; games for everybody that we can bring to anybody regardless of where they are, what devices they're playing on. We're very, very passionate about that," said Howard.

Todd Howard agreed with GamesIndustry.biz's James Batchelor when he pointed out that it seemed difficult to think of an Elder Scrolls game that was limited to only one console. As pointed out by Batchelor, Skyrim is available on just about every device at this point. To that, Todd Howard only smiled and replied, "I would agree that is hard to imagine."

Howard's final remarks could be taken in one of two ways. He could be smiling about the fact that Bethesda and Microsoft's relationship has changed so much, and more or less confirming that there's a good possibility of Elder Scrolls becoming Xbox-exclusive. On the other hand, maybe Howard is still confident in the idea of Elder Scrolls 6 eventually making its way to the PlayStation 5 and other platforms.

Only time will tell. Unfortunately, according to Bethesda's Pete Hines, fans probably won't know any of the answers regarding Elder Scrolls 6 until Bethesda's Starfield has already been released.

Luckily for PlayStation 5 gamers, GamesIndustry.biz reiterated a previous report from Bloomberg's Jason Schrier that stated that all current exclusivity deals are still being honored. That means that highly anticipated PS5 exclusives like Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo will still be released as planned. Furthermore, it's worth remembering that Schrier reported that some of Bethesda's future releases may end up coming to other consoles and platforms "on a case-by-case basis." This could mean that the door is not completely shut in regards to Bethesda titles making their way to the PS5 in the coming years.

Then again, Xbox seems to have broken its promises regarding console exclusivity on a few occasions. For instance, during July's Xbox Game Showcase, every single first-party game was advertised with a bannering claiming it was coming exclusively to Xbox Series X and PC. This was seen as exclusionary to gamers who weren't making the transition to next-gen consoles right away. This kind of mixed messaging has been an issue for many Xbox fans, and it seems as though it has extended to this new Bethesda partnership.

During a recent interview with Kotaku, Phil Spencer stated that the deal with ZeniMax Media was not made to keep other console owners from playing specific games. However, he did admit that Microsoft could stand to recoup a substantial part of its investment if Elder Scrolls 6 were to be released as an Xbox exclusive.

Meanwhile, Todd Howard mentioned to GamesIndustry.biz that the exact details of console exclusivity haven't been finalized with Microsoft. That may account for some of these discrepancies in how both companies are addressing the future of Bethesda's franchises. Whatever the case, it's beginning to look like there may be a slim hope yet for Elder Scrolls fans on other consoles.