In its biggest video game purchase ever, Microsoft has announced that it will buyout Bethesda Softworks and the reset of ZeniMax Media for $7.5 Billion. This is not only their biggest purchase ever in the niche, but it’s three times what Microsoft paid for Minecraft/Mojang. That titanic deal sealed the legacy of Minecraft for years, although this new deal likely has much bigger impact.
The deal is an all-cash deal, and is expected to complete next year. Now comes the wait while the two companies argue their case for a merger with US regulators first. There is expected to be little pushback on the approval. There’s some interesting backstory to this deal as well. A rumor had been swirling that Sony was looking to make a major publisher acquisition. It’s possible Microsoft just sniped their deal.
Microsoft spent $2.5 billion on Mojang in 2014, leading to fears among fans of “selling out”. The game enjoys constant updates and popularity in spite of these fears. And it could even be argued that the presence of the Minecraft brand has grown thanks to spinoff games. There is still a genuine concern about the idea of one company owning an increasingly huge presence in the games industry. The backlash against Electronic Arts and their dumb decisions could be argued to stem in part from their dominance through monetary means. EA bought out and rebranded dozens of studios over the years. Most of these were either absorbed into the larger EA machine or left to flounder producing games that many long-time fans felt lacked the “soul” of their earlier output. BioWare and Anthem being one of many modern examples.
It’s unclear what will happen to the staff at the studio, but the games are pretty much cut and dry. Many of the titles in the ZeniMax library will likely feature as part of Game Pass at some point. Microsoft has been leaning heavily on the subscription service to improve PC and console sales numbers and it would be a sure bet to assume many Bethesda titles are about to land on the service.
The biggest fallout from this is that it gives Microsoft ownership over the IPs of Fallout, The Elder Scrolls, Doom, Wolfenstein, Dishonored, and more. Each of these franchises has a legendary presence in games, and it gives Microsoft a huge legup on Sony and Nintendo for AAA titles in the future. It will take some time though for the aftershocks to be felt. Don’t expect to see a new AAA Doom or Fallout suddenly appear as a launch title for Xbox Series X.
This may not be enough to salvage the launch tarnishing of the new Xbox though. Microsoft delayed its biggest title, Halo Infinite, until next year. Some other awkward fallout from this is that some of the games being released by ZeniMax Media studios are timed PS5 exclusives, now owned by Microsoft. Those two games were Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo. Phil Spencer has said that Xbox plans to honor the PS5 exclusivity commitment for Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo. Future Bethesda games will be on Xbox, PC, and “other consoles on a case by case basis.”