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Xbox buys Bethesda, publisher of The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Doom

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Game publisher Bethesda Softworks is now owned by Microsoft.

The acquisition of Bethesda’s parent company ZeniMax Media by Microsoft for $7.5 billion might just mean all future releases for popular IPs in the Fallout, The Elder Scrolls, Wolfenstein, DOOM, Dishonored, Quake and Prey franchises will be Xbox console exclusives.

The exact implications of this are still uncertain. In an interview with Bloomberg, Xbox boss Phil Spencer vaguely clarified that they’ll “take other consoles on a case-by-case basis,” leaving open the possibility of a software-over-hardware strategy, as with Minecraft and Minecraft Dungeons after Microsoft acquired Mojang Studios in 2014. Equally, Ninja Theory’s Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II is a PC/Xbox exclusive, so there is also that precedent. 

In an interesting twist, it also means Microsoft will have two timed PS5 exclusives, in Arkane Studios’ Deathloop and Tango Gameworks’ GhostWire: Tokyo, a commitment Microsoft has now confirmed it is sticking to.

It has been confirmed that new Bethesda and Zenimax games will join Xbox Game Pass on release for console and PC in what is surely a major competitive move in itself.

The acquisition also reunites Bethesda with Obsidian under Microsoft, meaning Obsidian might once again have access to the Fallout IP for a follow-up to the wildly popular Fallout: New Vegas. It’s certainly something the fans would love to see, even with Obsidian already moving on with its own IP in last year’s The Outer Worlds.

Speaking on the acquisition, Xbox boss Phil Spencer said:

“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.”

Whilst any Xbox console exclusivity has yet to be confirmed, it’s another set of significant additions to Microsoft’s growing list of first-party Xbox Games studios. Bethesda, id Software, Arkane Studios, MachineGames, and Tango Gameworks all join Microsoft’s earlier acquisitions, including Obsidian Entertainment, Playground Games, Ninja Theory, Double Fine Productions, Compulsion Games and Undead Labs. Also of note, last week the CEO of Bungie shot down rumours that Bungie had been in similar acquisition talks with Microsoft.

It’s a next-gen strategy that seems to answer criticisms Microsoft faced with the Xbox One, which boasted few first-party exclusives compared to its Sony rival.

Preorders for Microsoft’s two new consoles are set to open tomorrow at different times depending on your region.

Updated: September 21, 2020, 6.55 pm BST

This story has been updated to reflect further comments from Phil Spencer to Bloomberg on whether Bethesda, now an Xbox studio, will still release its games on PS5.

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