After years of gamers teasing Xbox for its lack of exclusives and in-house game development, Microsoft clapped back by buying Bethesda’s parent company for $7.5bn.
Microsoft’s acquisition of Zenimax Media includes the rights to Doom, The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Wolfenstein, and many more. To put the deal in perspective, Disney purchasing LucasFilms and Marvel totalled to just over $8bn, so Microsoft has hedged its bets on Zenimax and its child studios raking in the cash during the next generation of gaming.
Of course, it’s no coincidence that Microsoft made its move now. We’re fast approaching the Xbox Series X’s and PlayStation 5’s release dates, and with both the consoles’ specs and prices appearing neck-and-neck, it may be up to the consoles’ libraries to clinch undecided console buyers.
Acquiring gaming studios to gain launch titles is a tried and tested strategy for Microsoft. 20 years ago, Microsoft bought Bungie, who was working on a little game called Halo: Combat Evolved. Microsoft made the game a launch title for the Xbox console and in the following years, Master Chief became Xbox’s ubiquitous mascot, amassing a net worth of $5bn in 2015.
In recent years, however, Halo has had more stumbles than smash-hits. While Halo Infinite boasts a new, exciting adventure for Master Chief, the Halo franchise can’t be Microsoft’s one-trick pony forever.
So, Microsoft went ahead and bought the keys to the biggest gaming franchises today. PlayStation fans are rightly worried that upcoming Bethesda fan favourites could end up as Xbox exclusives. Yet Microsoft has been relatively amenable so far. Ghostwire: Tokyo and Deathloop will remain as PlayStation exclusives for the time being, and The Elder Scrolls Online will continue to be supported on the PS4.
On paper, this deal seems like a positive move with plenty to be excited for; Fallout New Vegas could finally receive a sequel with Obsidian and Bethesda working under one roof. However, Microsoft’s purchase signifies a massive change in the gaming industry, one which may prove to be a horrific case of history repeating itself in the long run. And it all has to do with the Xbox Game Pass.