All eyes in the gaming industry are on the upcoming launches of the PS5 and Xbox Series hardware. But the more mundane aspects of the gaming business continue, and today there’s a pretty huge development. Microsoft has purchased ZeniMax Media, which owns publisher Bethesda and its subsidiary game studios like Id. The deal is worth $7.5 billion.
Bethesda is responsible for some of the biggest franchises in gaming, including The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, DOOM, and Wolfenstein. Microsoft has been on a game acquisition kick for the last decade or so. Becoming a subsidiary of Microsoft puts Bethesda in pleasant company, including Rare, Double Fine, Ninja Theory, 343 Industries, Minecraft maker Mojang, and perhaps most notably, Obsidian. Obsidian, which published the well-received The Outer Worlds last year, famously teamed up with Bethesda for the much-loved Fallout: New Vegas.
ZeniMax/Bethesda is far and away Microsoft’s biggest gaming acquisition ever. It’s a huge publisher in its own right, which presents Microsoft with some interesting problems. For example, Bethesda is already committed to making two exclusives for the PlayStation 5, time-bendy shooter Deathloop and trippy supernatural action game Ghostwire Tokyo.
Both games are “timed exclusives,” which means they should come to the Xbox Series at some point, but don’t expect any more PlayStation-exclusive releases from the company, ever. It’s a given that plenty of Bethesda’s back catalog will be coming to the Xbox Game Pass.
A more interesting question is, will upcoming Bethesda releases be multi-platform, or will Microsoft hoard its big games for the Xbox and PC? The Elder Scrolls VI and Starfield are far and away the company’s most-anticipated upcoming titles, and both would make tempting exclusives to keep out of Sony’s hands. But Microsoft has shown a willingness to embrace multi-platform publishing before (The Outer Worlds came to PS4 on day one and eventually the Switch), and such massive, expensive titles almost demand as wide a release as possible in order to break even.