Microsoft Wants Bethesda Games To Be ‘First Or Better Or Best’ On Xbox

Microsoft Wants Bethesda Games To Be ‘First Or Better Or Best’ On Xbox
Image: Fallout 76

Ever since the $US7.5 billion buyout was announced, Bethesda fans have been wondering: will the next Fallout / Elder Scrolls / Starfield be an Xbox exclusive? Microsoft has repeatedly hedged, but in an investor conference Xbox’s chief financial officer (CFO) provided a bit more colour about the company’s attitude.

While Xbox head Phil Spencer openly told Kotaku that the buyout makes sense whether future Bethesda games are exclusive to the Xbox platform, the massive PlayStation player base isn’t something any company would want to simply ignore. Spencer’s attitude since taking over as the head of Xbox has all been about bringing gaming to more players, whether that’s through an open push for cross-play support or moves like enabling Xbox Game Pass games through cloud streaming.

Still, Bethesda’s main franchises like Fallout, Elder Scrolls and the upcoming Starfield are huge drawcards. And the company is clearly thinking about ways they can ensure Xbox is the primary place people continue to play them, even if the games aren’t exclusive to the Xbox ecosystem. At the Jefferies Interactive Entertainment Virtual Conference, Xbox CFO Tim Stuart explained that Team Green wanted to make sure Bethesda games either ran better — or were released first — first (emphasis mine):

What we’ll do in the long run is we don’t have intentions of just pulling all of Bethesda content out of Sony or Nintendo or otherwise. But what we want is we want that content, in the long run, to be either first or better or best or pick your differentiated experience, on our platforms. We will want Bethesda content to show up the best as — on our platforms.

Stuart went on to say that he wasn’t announcing that Bethesda games weren’t being turned into Xbox exclusives. “But if you think about something like Game Pass, if it shows up best in Game Pass, that’s what we want to see, and we want to drive our Game Pass subscriber base through that Bethesda pipeline,” he said.

“So again, I’m not announcing pulling content from platforms one way or the other. But I suspect you’ll continue to see us shift towards a first or better or best approach on our platforms.

Stuart also briefly mentioned the Xbox All Access program in Australia, saying Xbox had seen”great uptake from something like Telstra in Australia”. “So they’re world-class, as many global operators are, about selling hardware plus service bundles. But clearly, they do this with mobile phones plus their subscription service, so their data plans,” the Xbox CFO said.

He also touched on how Xbox is expecting their xCloud streaming to unlock a much larger gaming audience because of the previous barriers to entry. “The ability for a user who wasn’t going to buy a console can now participate in the AAA-console-quality game market I think it’s going to be a really, really unique experience,” he said, noting that Microsoft had already seen users spend more time and buy more games as a result of Project xCloud.

You can read all of Stuart’s thoughts via a transcript of the conference here. It’s an interesting read into how Microsoft strategically are thinking about acquisitions, the influence of Xbox Game Pass, the effect of the Microsoft Azure network and Sony’s strategic partnership, and how the Game Pass economics works out for studios and larger partners, and the importance of gaming to making 5G a success.


  • If you think about the types of games Bethesda has, such an approach is to be expected.

    GaaS & MP titles do best when they have critical mass, so I wouldn’t expect games like ESO or FO76 to become exclusive.

    SP titles I’d expect at the very least a long exclusivity period of two years plus, if not still outright exclusivity. Whilst MS’s gameplan is obviously to push gaming subscriptions, its still a long time before that approach will pay dividends, and knows its still being spanked by Sony in the exclusivity wars and will need to stem the flow and increase attachment rates in the meantime.

  • “Better”… in-house Bethesda needs to do more than just better, their other studios keep producing high quality modern titles and well Bethesda inhouse is using a 15 year old design methodology on a 10 year old engine to produce open world games they barely functional.

    Ubisoft has mass produced the epic open world formula, CDPR is the champion of RPGs and Obsidian entertainment (as part of Microsoft studios) in recent years produced games that are blitzing Bethesdas legacy.

  • “first or better or best…”

    from Bethesda?

    Have they not seen the bugs in every launch Fallout or Elder Scrolls game??

  • That’s all fine and good as long as the better and best parts aren’t achieved by questionable tactics.
    It’s one thing to make the games run better on Xbox, it’s another to make them run worse on others.

    I’ve still not fully forgiven Bethesda for the stunt they pulled with the PS3.

  • As a PS owner, provided it’s not hard exclusivity, and is limited to timing of releases, and minor things like exclusive characters or missions (which Sony does routinely now), then I can’t really complain. You’d have to suffer some pretty chronic FOMO to worry about minor shit like that.

  • Can I just put this out there. I know that MS is in the 2nd place going into this generation, but honestly if Sony had bought, I dunno, ANYONE, would this even BE a discussion? Regardless of whether it would sell less or more going multi platform, Sony would keep everything to themselves.

    Why does MS have to play nice at all given that everything they make is on Xbox AND PC, so they’re already not holding it ransom behind a console purchase. Couple that with xcloud and I see no reason why MS can’t just say FU to putting it ever on a PS console. I get people will say it makes more money, but you ain’t going to get people on Game Pass if they can still play their games (even later) on a rival service..

      • Actually that quote doesn’t counter my original statement, if anything it actually reinforces it. Phil is talking about locking a game behind the paywall of a console.

        I already mentioned MS put everything on PC and now with xcloud, you don’t even need a machine to play their games, just something to stream it to. I think that is the epitome of MS saying you can play our games ‘anywhere’. Conversely Sony says, buy our console or F off.

        Not trying to sound like a fanboy, I own all consoles, I just think when MS announces whatever in the future are only coming to their platforms (as above) that people will cry foul and it’s not fair as Sony are never put under that pressure.

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