Major game franchises like Doom, Fallout, The Elder Scrolls, and more will soon be Microsoft properties. That’s because the Xbox and Windows maker announced Monday morning it is buying the corporate parent of Bethesda Softworks, ZeniMax Media.
“Like us, Bethesda are passionate believers in building a diverse array of creative experiences, in exploring new game franchises, and in telling stories in bold ways,” Microsoft wrote in its announcement. “All of their great work will of course continue and grow and we look forward to empowering them with the resources and support of Microsoft to scale their creative visions to more players in new ways for you.”
From many platforms to one?
Bethesda has confirmed an acquisition price tag of $7.5 billion. For context, that’s three times the price Microsoft paid for Minecraft maker Mojang back in 2014. Mojang, of course, continued to be a multiplatform developer after its Microsoft acquisition—a decision that led to the odd sight of Microsoft publishing a Mario-themed “Mash-Up Pack” for Minecraft on Nintendo consoles.
But Minecraft was a relatively unique situation where the acquired game was built around cross-platform compatibility among a heavily established fanbase. Microsoft seems less likely to extend that same multiplatform courtesy to Bethesda’s gaming properties in the long term, but nothing has been officially announced on that score.
[Update: In a tweeted message, ZeniMax Online Studios Studio Director Matt Firor confirmed that “ESO will continue to be supported exactly as it was, and we fully expect it to keep growing and thriving on each of the platforms that are currently supported.” That includes versions on the Xbox One and Windows, as well as the PS4, Mac, and Stadia.]
In the near term, though, Bethesda is still working on two console-exclusive titles for the PS5, Ghostwire: Tokyo and Deathloop. Both those games have featured heavily in Sony’s console marketing this year, ahead of expected launches in 2021. It is likely too late to change deal structures and platform-release plans for those titles (which are also coming to PC), which means Microsoft could well be behind two of the PS5’s biggest console exclusives next year.
“The key point is we’re still Bethesda,” VP of PR and Marketing Pete Hines wrote in a blog post announcing the news. “We’re still working on the same games we were yesterday, made by the same studios we’ve worked with for years, and those games will be published by us.”
Being part of Microsoft Game Studios makes Bethesda’s gaming lineup a de facto part of Xbox Game Pass; Microsoft promised years ago that every upcoming first-party game would be available on the subscription service “on the same day they launch.”
Buying up the world
The ZeniMax purchase is a massive capper to an already massive string of acquisitions by Microsoft Game Studios in recent years. The company scooped up Psychonauts 2 studio Double Fine last year, and a year before that purchased Undead Labs (State of Decay), Playground Games (Forza Horizon), Ninja Theory (Hellblade), and Compulsion Games (We Happy Few).
Microsoft also purchased Obsidian Entertainment in 2018, putting the developer of Fallout: New Vegas and the owner of the Fallout IP under the same corporate roof once again.