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Xbox Expands On Its Plans For Bethesda Games

Xbox CFO Tim Stuart recently revealed the company's roadmap for Bethesda Games releases following their acquisition of the studio's parent company, ZeniMax Media. During a virtual business conference focused broadly on interactive entertainment (transcription via IGN), Stuart explained the new directive for Bethesda moving forward. Stuart said that Bethesda will be producing games that are "first or better or best or pick your differentiated experience," on Xbox or Game Pass. 

What Bethesda releases may not be, apparently, is exclusive to Xbox, a possibility that was once at least theoretical. Stuart made sure to leave open the possibility of future Bethesda titles appearing on Sony and Nintendo systems as they have been in the past, while still retaining some key quality or advantage on Xbox's proprietary hardware or software.

Software is a key differentiator in this case, as Stuart went on to discuss the possibility that this "first or better or best" philosophy will apply not just to Bethesda games on physical Xbox systems, but also to its titles on Xbox Game Pass. Game Pass is accessible on PC and streaming devices in addition to Xbox consoles. This expands access to whatever improved versions of Bethesda releases might be available for Xbox, bringing them beyond just console owners and to the larger pool of those with a Game Pass subscription.

Also important to Stuart's statement is the inclusion of "first" and "differentiated experience," in addition to his standard superlatives. "First," of course, implies that a game might simply be released on Xbox platforms as a timed exclusive, before becoming available in more-or-less the same form on Sony and/or Nintendo hardware. "Pick your differentiated experience" sounds less like a promise of greatness and more like a safety net in the event that a key feature for an Xbox version of a Bethesda game could fail to satisfy consumers. In such a case, said feature wouldn't have to live up to being "better," but simply different, remaining in line with Stuart's statement.

Stuart also stated that these differentiating factors will also be determined on a case by case basis, rather than wholesale. This leaves room for improvement and adaptation, either in response to player reception after the fact, or in a situation in which a unique feature makes particular sense on Xbox over other consoles.

Xbox's purchase of ZeniMax also won't be its last studio acquisition. This leaves open the possibility that the directive given to Bethesda may end up applying to games from other major studios, should they be acquired by Microsoft down the line.