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.