Xbox Buys Out Bethesda And ZeniMax Media

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xbox bethesda
Image: Xbox

Well, holy shit.

Microsoft announced late Monday morning — and only hours before preorders open for their Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S consoles — that they have “entered an agreement” to acquire ZeniMax Media. The deal is worth $US7.5 billion in cash and will be finalised in the 2021 financial year.

The move means Microsoft will acquire ZeniMax and all of its subsidiaries, including the enormous publisher-developer Bethesda and all the studios under its wing. That’s not just Elder Scrolls and Starfield that are now Xbox titles, but also: Prey, Quake, Wolfenstein, DOOM, Dishonored, Elder Scrolls Online plus anything that comes out of Arkane, Tango Gameworks, MachineGames, id, Bethesda Softworks, Bethesda Game Studios, Roundhouse Studios and Alpha Dog.

“Over the last few weeks, we’ve been excited to share more detail on important elements of a plan we’ve been building towards for years,” Phil Spencer, head of Xbox, said in an official blog post.

Bethesda and Microsoft have always had a close relationship, and Todd Howard has frequently appeared in Microsoft’s showcase conferences whenever there was big Fallout news to reveal. The Xbox was also the first console platform to get mod support for Fallout.

The full announcement from Microsoft revealing the acquisition can be read below:

Today is a special day, as we welcome some of the most accomplished studios in the games industry to Xbox. We are thrilled to announce Microsoft has entered into an agreement to acquire ZeniMax Media, parent company of Bethesda Softworks.

As one of the largest, most critically acclaimed, privately held game developers and publishers in the world, Bethesda is an incredibly talented group of 2,300 people worldwide who make up some of the most accomplished creative studios in our industry across Bethesda Softworks, Bethesda Game Studios, id Software, ZeniMax Online Studios, Arkane, MachineGames, Tango Gameworks, Alpha Dog, and Roundhouse Studios. These are the teams responsible for franchises like The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Wolfenstein, DOOM, Dishonored, Prey, Quake, Starfield and many more.

Bethesda’s games have always had a special place on Xbox and in the hearts of millions of gamers around the world. Our teams have a close and storied history working together, from the amazing first DOOM, and its id Tech engine, innovating games on PCs to Bethesda bringing their first console game to the original Xbox, the groundbreaking The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. Over the years I’ve had many deep conversations with the creative leaders at Bethesda on the future of gaming and we’ve long shared similar visions for the opportunities for creators and their games to reach more players in more ways.

Just as they took the bold first steps to bring The Elder Scrolls franchise to the original Xbox, Bethesda were early supporters of Xbox Game Pass, bringing their games to new audiences across devices and have been actively investing in new gaming technology like cloud streaming of games. We will be adding Bethesda’s iconic franchises to Xbox Game Pass for console and PC. One of the things that has me most excited is seeing the roadmap with Bethesda’s future games, some announced and many unannounced, to Xbox console and PC including Starfield, the highly anticipated, new space epic currently in development by Bethesda Game Studios.

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. 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.

All of our work, and the foundation of our relationship with you, starts with a commitment to deliver a breadth of amazing games to discover and play on Xbox. Over the last few weeks, we’ve been excited to share more detail on important elements of a plan we’ve been building towards for years. A plan that is the fulfilment of a promise, to you the Xbox player, to deliver the most performant, immersive and compatible next-generation gaming experiences, and the freedom to play blockbuster games with your friends, anytime, anywhere. Today is a landmark step in our journey together and I’m incredibly energized by what this step means for Xbox.

Please join me in welcoming all of our friends at Bethesda to Team Xbox.

What a move hours before people start buying your next-gen consoles. This is such a massive deal. Just think of the marketing pitch: you get to play the new Elder ScrollsStarfield or DOOM with your Xbox Game Pass subscription.

Comments

  • So what does this mean for Deathloop and GhostWire: Tokyo with regards to their PS5 exclusivity? Does that status change with this deal?

    • They probably won’t lock existing IPs to be an Xbox exclusives, that would irritate fan bases and Phil knows that will backfire. A lot of this is a move to fill out Gamepass and Xcloud.

      • Unlike, say, Nintendo with Fatal Frame/Project Zero and Bayonetta, where except for the PC port of the first, we’re never likely to see anywhere else beside the Nintendo Drift.

    • Probably just Xbox and PC. You don’t spend $7.5 billion just to keep selling on another platform. Look at Hellblade 1 and The Outer Worlds 1, those games had existing contracts that got honoured. But stuff like a Wolfenstein or DOOM Eternal sequel or TES6 don’t have contracts so they’ll likely be exclusive. Of course it would frustrate people, but it happens with every studio/IP acquisition that Sony or MS make

      • If they keep releasing those IP’s like normal, they haven’t really addressed their “exclusives” problem, which is the aim of aquiring studios and IPs. It’d be stupid

  • Whoa. Your move Playstation. Might have to put that PS5 purchase on hold. No way I am buying it if I can’t play the new Elder Scrolls, Fallout or Starfield.

    Playstation would have to buy both like Bioware and Rockstar. Huge L for them IMO.

  • Talk about your power play.

    Here’s hoping it’s not a repeat of past mistakes though, I wanna reason to get an Xbox, not watch more studios go the way of the Dodo.

    • Honestly, I’m sort of hoping Microsoft might actually pull them into line a bit… So maybe we don’t get any more shitshows like Fallout 76, Wolfenstein Young Blood, etc.

      • For sure, gotta find the balance between control and freedom with a hefty foundation of support.

        Makes me excited for the days of the first Xbox.
        (Though the exclusive wars really sucked at the peak)

      • Let’s remember MS bought Rare and put out stellar games like Banjo Kazooie nuts and bolts and then has sat on those IPs for… Over 10 years?

          • Yeah Sea of Thieves was great (eventually, it was pretty lakcing at launch), but how long did it take for them to actually put out a good game though?

            They used the Killer Instinct IP finally on the Xbox One I guess and that was pretty good, but Rare didn’t make that, instead just overseeing it.

            Instead Rare was used to make – Viva Piñata and Kinect Sports. Good job using Rare’s talents to their maximum potential there, Microsoft. No wonder most of the original staff moved on within the first few years of the acquisition.

            And the less said about what they’ve done with the Battletoads IP the better.

          • Unfortunately haven’t tried it as my backlog of games is pretty shameful already. I’ll give you that it looks great and fun.

            It’s just such a shame how many IPs have disappeared, from the face of the Earth under the Microsoft wing. Few that come to mind: AoE, Fable, Perfect Dark and as White_Pointer mentions, Battletoads. Granted a few of those seem to be going for a comeback.

            It just makes me think that if Fallout 76 had released under MS being the CF it was, Fallout would’ve disappeared as well.

    • The only real bright side of Sony is its gaming division, everything else is stagnant or losing money, so no, Sony can’t really afford to drop a few billion on acquisitions.

      I’m still expecting a Japanese publisher acquisition, either Sega or Capcom to be honest, as that’d round out the last bit of the ‘Sony exclusive’ argument. But it does appear, if you’ve chosen Sony, don’t expect to be playing Fallout 5 or TES6.

    • Rockstar? Nope. GTAO alone makes them billions. 2k would want a lot more than what Microsoft paid for Bethesda.

      EA? Again no, They make around 22 Billion a year alone. If you add on all what the company itself would be worth it’s not something sony could afford.

      Ubisoft largely has the same answer as EA.

      Sony’s net worth is only about 45 billion while its sales this fiscal year were approx 70 billion.

      • Also add in the fact that to buy a studio and make their work console exclusive will result in the studio making less billions. It might drive some more console sales, but will probably lose some customers. So they’d be paying a premium for revenue the studio will no longer be making.

        (that’s assuming they force the studio to go console exclusive).

    • All eyes were on WB Games earlier this year cause they were fielding offers from the big companies… but quietly pulled out from market when Covid hit.

    • To put this purchase into perspective, Sonys entire networth is estimated at 70 billion. Microsoft just spent over 10% (7.5b) of that to buy a game publisher.

      Sony can’t afford it

      • Funing for buyouts isn’t really a factor of how much cash a company has in the bank. It’s very often done with a combination of outside equity capital, share swaps and the like. There have been numerous examples of companies that have been bought out by businesses smaller than themselves.

  • Hopefully now they can afford to develop a new game engine instead of using the janky ass dumpster fire they’ve been wheeling out for almost 20 years.

    Oh and maybe some QA, they haven’t budgeted for (or spent money on) that in about the same time frame.

    Also interesting considering Xbox’s “we aren’t exclusives” line they’ve been spouting the whole lead up to the new console launch.

  • Okay, someone needs to explain this to me like I’m five. Any time a game gets announced as an Epic exclusive, this comment section goes nuts over of anti consumer and how they will never spend a cent with a company that just buys their exclusivity.

    Microsoft buy out one of the major studios and take control of a handful of the biggest IPs in the world and everyone’s like “wow, big powerplay Microsoft”.

    • Thing is that Sony has been anti consumer for many years. They are one of the most stingy gatekeepers I’ve ever seen. They profited from their anti consumer practises regardless. Now Microsoft is catching on and starting to play hardball too. If Microsoft keeps buying out the industry, it’s Sony’s fault.

      • Except MS are just buying up existing IP/studios, Sony seem to have created original IPs.

        But I also don’t rate Bethesda. Average games, way overblown, imo.

        • Many of Sony’s well known studios started independent. Naughty Dog, Insomniac, Media Molecule, Sucker Punch, Guerrilla Games, Bend Studio, etc.

      • There’s nothing wrong with having exclusives. I actually don’t mind when either Sony or Microsoft ream up with an existing publisher to work together for a game (Sony and Campson with Steet Fighter V/ Microsoft and Insomniac with Sunset Overdrive). I just think the new trend of buying up as many third party publishers is going to be detrimental to the overall product

      • I think calling exclusives ‘anti-consumer’ is a bit of a stretch. Do you consider Nintendo ‘stingy gatekeepers’ because you can’t get Mario or Zelda games on other platforms? Games define consoles. Without them, the differences are pretty much all cosmetic at this point.

        • It’s not the exclusives it’s the monopolising that’s the issue. We’ve already seen TenCent buy all the things. The less independent publishers the worse off things will be. Creativity is stifled, consumers end up being charged more.

      • They can throw money around all they like, if they don’t make smart decisions and green-light new IPs like Sony have done, they’ll just be in the same position as the current gen.
        This seems like damage control from MS at this point.

    • Yeah, it just goes to show that SOME folks are hypocrites when it comes to exclusives.

      I recognise it’s a huge power move but for me personally I was more pissed at Tomb Raider 2 getting picked up as a timed exclusive, I jumped off the Fallout/Elder Scrolls train early on so while disappointing, it really only gives me an excuse to upgrade my PC sometime in the future.

      As for the whole, exclusives are bad, song and dance that MS has been doing, it was always just a targeted marketing ploy to begin with so it shouldn’t be shocking to anyone that it’s good for me and not for thee.
      Who knows, maybe they end up being timed exclusives but we’ll just have to wait and see.

        • Traditionally, no.
          Through the lens of MS’s plans for the platform, most definitely.

          This isn’t just a shot across the bow of Sony, it’s also a warning shot at the PC as well.

      • I don’t think the exclusive are bad argument holds up too well when Microsoft will sell to you on almost every other platform, and would likely sell on Playstation as well if they could sell you a gamepass sub.

    • Main reason for the cheering has been
      a) Bethesda has been really messing up a lot with F76, Elders scroll, young blood, cancelling titles etc
      b) Microsoft studios have been having a lot of success in recent years, no greedy or scummy plays.
      c) Microsoft fully supports PC games and Steam.
      d) Epics is not about exclusives they develop, they swoop in at the 11th hour and throw really corrupt bags of money to developers to stop them selling on Steam… and only Steam. Its anti competitive.
      e) Game Pass is one of the best deals in gaming at the moment.
      f) While Microsoft and Sony have their decades old console war, Microsoft fully supports all their titles on Switch.

      • So you think that Epic having a one year exclusivity deal of a few titles is more anticompetitive than one of the largest technology companies buying one of the five biggest independent publishers?

        • Yes. Just by the way Epic does it, is anti competitive cause they are buying exclusives they didnt work on, using “price fixing”.

          Xbox is funding development of most of their games from the ground up and new IP. And they don’t block most of their studios from selling on other platforms, only “Microsoft” long held IPs like Halo and Flight Simulator are exclusives at the moment. They are also focused on Gamepass being their “exclusive”, a cheap subscription for a full library of games… or go buy a PS5 and its $70 US games.

          • Except that Epic are not using “price fixing”.

            All larger-name games available via the Epic store are available direct from all the usual retailers, such as EB Games, and these businesses can offer them at whatever discount they wish out of their 30 or 50% cut.

            The only place you can’t buy these games from is Steam, so the arrangement excludes only one marketplace out of literally thousands.

            What most people rage about isn’t “price fixing”, it’s the fact that they can’t download all their games from one single place and client, which is an entirely different thing.

          • Epic are price fixing cause part of their exclusive is they can’t sell it on digital platforms or in stores below the price they agree to sell it on Epic Game store.

            The only savings you get is if the store is either bulk buying stock or taking a hit on their margin, which considering Epic is suppose to have the lowest margin… is anti-competitive.

            Epic has enough clout and financing to start a genuine price war for games with the cash fall they have and lower margins… but they are maintaining game prices and are basically in a non-compete scenario with Steam by their own design by securing games “excluded” from Steam. Its bullshit, corporate pirate manipulation… what its done is stopped big indy titles from shattering the game prices by collaring them to these agreements and stifling them from going blockbuster until a year or two later.

          • @boxhead you are clearly talking out of your arse, as evidenced by the fact that your first and second paragraphs of your post completely contradict each other.

            I mean, seriously… “bulk buying stock or taking a hit on their margin” is literally the definition of what price competition actually *is*.

            You only have to look at the ozbargain around the time that Borderlands 3 was released to see how many deals were available
            https://www.ozbargain.com.au/product/borderlands-3?page=3

    • It definitely is anti-consumer, its just balanced by you can play these titles almost anywhere (on your PC, on Steam, on your phone, or on an Xbox) and pay $10 a month for access to it all.

      Anti-consumer yes, but the value is still mega high.

        • Sony sort of forced Microsoft’s hand. It was one thing to have a really strong first party studio offering, but with the amount of timed exclusives that Sony has been buying something had to give.

          I’m also expecting a Japanese publisher to be bought as well (remember the Microsoft buying Sega rumours earlier this year?), so I don’t think its over yet for those of us on Playstation.

          And honestly, if Sony allowed Microsoft to sell Gamepass on Playstation, you’d have Halo on PS5 within months. I truly believe that MS will enable you to play pretty well much anywhere you want, as long as they can hawk a gamepass sub at you.

          • It’s really not over for PS5 anyway, they still have pretty stellar studios and IPs exclusive to them.

            I very much sit in favour of Xbox and the Gamepass camp in general over anything Sony has done. Their overall network and gaming infrastructure is also above and beyond Sony’s by a country mile just based off the behemoth that Microsoft are in general.

            But as a PC owner I simply don’t see any reason to ever buy a Series X or S, and I’m the type of person who likes buying consoles in a lot of cases ‘just to have them’.

            I am however absolutely buying a PS5 the moment I can get my hands on one. There are some pretty major titles coming for Sony, and I expect even more down the line.

          • I agree, its no way in hell over.

            But its one major blow to Sony’s exclusive argument, and a double whammy when combined with the value of gamepass.

  • Well, this is further evidence we’re in the Worst Worldline. Just when you think 2020 can’t get worse, you have the further cannibalisation of the gaming industry by big fish being eaten by bigger fish.

    Surprised that this would be enough to get people to suddenly decide to buy a Xbox, since the best versions of their games tend to be on PC where you can apply mods to fix everything busted.

  • Cool, maybe now they can fix Elder Scrolls Online on Xbox so it stops repeatedly crashing on character load (and even when it does load more often than not many of the graphics don’t load and instead are replaced with black squares).

  • Large assumptions here.
    I’ve not seen any confirmation that Microsoft intends to keep Bethesda (& related titles) as exclusives in any of the articles I’ve read to date . That may obviously change in the coming months but rather than locking down a specific stable of titles
    they seem bent on building an ecosystem and facilitating cross-platform play.

    Given they own PC and now with XCloud and other serious revenue channels, I think there’s a fair chance they’ll shrug, release them on every platform under the sun and back up the armoured vans for the torrent of cash when the next Elder Scrolls launches.

    Having said that all Bethesda titles, current and future on Game Pass day 1? Christ that thing is becoming a system seller unto itself!

    • The official word is all games will be on PC & Xbox, with other platforms on a ‘case by case’ basis.

      Unless Microsoft can sell Gamepass on Playstation, I don’t see Microsoft enabling Sony for a small hit of cash versus borging more people into gamepass subscribers by dragging them into the ecosystem.

    • PC and Xbox release yes. I think people are just in denial about any big IP until its announced. Wishful thinking to expect MS to continue support Sony with their own first party games…

  • Don’t know if this has been mentioned

    But wouldn’t surprise me.if TES6 etc come to ps5 after 12 months or so with MS using some of the bigger IPs as timed exclusives

    New IPs will prob be exclusively on xbox

    Either way if they do release on ps5 MS will get a nice cut of $$ made

    Time will tell

    • Shooting themselves in the foot otherwise.

      It’s why we saw exclusives get replaced by timed exclusives. Not selling to a large chunk of the market, especially when sales in your main market will have died down, doesn’t make a lot of sense.

  • Wow. At first I was upset that I might not get to play the next TES and Fallout until years after the fact (when I can justify buying an Xbox as a secondary) but then I realised its been years since I actually enjoyed a Bethesda RPG. Maybe this is denial speaking, but at I’m a bit over what they seem to have to offer. That could
    Change though, and TES6 may be incredible.

    The potential loss of Akane multi-platform cuts deep, however. Tango, too, a little.

  • Bethesda would have to actually release a good game and then I’d have to lose my PC for this to actually matter. Still not a system mover for me.

  • Terrible news. More monopolies are bad for all us consumers. Personally troubled that it appears MS own Tango Gameworks now… but that because I’m a huge Evil Within fan.
    I don’t see Bethesda publishing games only on Xbox though. That Sony money is too huge. But as a PS user this is troubling stuff…

  • If you’re a PC user, is there really any point buying an Xbox? Not being a smart ass actually curious about this?
    Sony and Nintendo always seem to have the best exclusives.

        • Yep. They have a massive focus on reoccuring revenue company wide.

          Office365 vs Office 2019
          Azure vs Onprem
          Etc

          Gamepass is just the Gaming version of Microsoft wanting to dip into your wallet every month in some form or fashion.

    • Microsoft releases most of their studio titles on PC (Windows store and Steam) and under both the PC Gamepass. Their big push for PC Users will be getting everyone (who isn’t an Apple iPhone user) onto XCloud.

  • Phil Spencer specifically said exclusives are counter to what gaming is about, so I doubt we would see Xbox exclusives for these IP’s. Maybe timed release of content or gamepass as someone pointed out already.

    Big statement though.

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