Microsoft started the week with a bang. Just a day before the Xbox Series X will be available to pre-order, Xbox head Phil Spencer revealed that the company acquired Bethesda Softworks through the purchase of its parent company Zenimax Media. That means Xbox now owns beloved properties including Elder Scrolls, Fallout, and DOOM, as well as the studios that developed them. Acquiring Bethesda is a huge win for Microsoft, just a day before the Xbox Series X will be available for pre-order.
All of Xbox’s first-party games are included in its Game Pass subscription. If that trend holds then all of Bethesda’s games will be part of the $10 a month subscription as well, including brand new releases. Game Pass was already an impressive value, but adding some of the best franchises in gaming to the library takes it to another level.
Spencer said that Xbox will decide whether or not to make Bethesda titles exclusive on a case-by-case basis, but chances are the corporation plans to keep them away from Sony to incentivize gamers to pick up an Xbox over a PlayStation.
Spencer also confirmed that Microsoft will uphold the timed exclusive deals Bethesda made with Sony for Deathloop and GhostWire: Tokyo. But the second the exclusive window ends both titles will be available for free for Game Pass subscribers, which may dissuade customers from getting the games on PlayStation.
Xbox’s Achilles heel over the last generation has been its lack of compelling exclusives, especially compared to the generation-defining titles from PlayStation studios like Horizon Zero Dawn, The Last of Us Part II, and God of War. In order to make up for its deficiency, Microsoft went on a buying spree, gobbling up talented studios like Obsidian Entertainment, Double Fine, and Ninja Theory. The recent Xbox Showcase featured some of their new projects.
Those studios were important investments for the future of Xbox, but acquiring Bethesda for a reported $7.5 billion is an outright power grab. PlayStation owners will be frustrated when they’re unable to get the next Elder Scrolls on their console after spending hundreds of hours playing Skyrim on a Sony system.
But it may have been a necessary move for Xbox, which has been in the shadows of Sony since the disastrous launch of the Xbox One. Since then, Microsoft has been on its heels, earning its way back into gamers’ good graces with consumer-friendly moves and Game Pass. Yesterday, the company pounced, showing the industry that it’s still in this fight.