Microsoft has officially completed their purchase of Zenimax, meaning they now own Bethesda and the number of developers under their umbrella. Announced via a cheeky tweet, the purchase brings Bethesda Game Studios, id Software, Machine Games, Arkane, Alpha Dog, Zenimax Online Studios, Tango Gameworks and Roundhouse Studios all under Xbox.
By bringing all these studios under the Xbox banner, Microsoft may have locked down exclusivity on such renowned franchises and titles as The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Dishonored, Wolfenstein, Doom, Prey, The Evil Within, as well as some of their upcoming titles like Starfield and MachineGames’ Indiana Jones title.
The acquisition is the latest in a move by Microsoft to not only fill, but diversify their waning first-party studios. Announced last fall, the acquisition only passed the “requisite regulatory approvals” this past week. In a post to Xbox Wire, Head of Xbox Phil Spencer wrote, “This is the next step in building an industry-leading first party studios team, a commitment we have to our Xbox community.”
Bethesda’s acquisition has been the strangest of the bunch so far and comes with its own rules to reflect that. According to Spencer, among Bethesda’s upcoming line up there will be “some new titles in the future that will be exclusive to Xbox and PC players.” This only seems to double down on the language used before, suggesting that while Bethesda’s studios will become first-party developers, we shouldn’t expect all of their games to be exclusive to Xbox. Instead the priority seems to be on making Xbox and PC the “best place to experience new Bethesda games.” It seems like exclusivity will be evaluated on a “case by case” basis, and how that will work exactly is unclear at the moment. Existing contracts for Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo’s timed exclusivity with PlayStation will go on uninterrupted, but you probably shouldn’t expect anything else like that beyond this purchase.
Despite this, both parties have come forward to say nothing but availability will be changing too hastily. In Bethesda’s own statement, Senior Vice President of PR and Marketing Pete Hines claims that, “First, let me say that we’re not making any landmark announcements or changes right now. As we’ve all shared, the expectation is that Bethesda Softworks and our studios will continue as we have in the past, just with more support and resources than we’ve ever had before.” Instead the immediate focus seems to be on Game Pass.
“Obviously, Game Pass has been an important initiative for Xbox, and we’ll be working on putting even more of our games into Game Pass than ever before,” wrote Hines. Spencer ended his Xbox Wire post stating that this would be coming even sooner than Hines led on, saying, “In the meantime, to properly celebrate this special moment, we are bringing additional Bethesda games into Xbox Game Pass later this week. Stay tuned for more details!”
I’m personally hoping the Dishonored series and Prey are among the first wave to come to Game Pass. They were there before in some capacity, and I’d really love easy access to those games. I’d also just love to see folks give them more of a shot, and Game Pass is a great way to experience games you might be unsure about. I guess we’ll just have to see how fruitful this partnership winds up being.