In surprise news today it was announced that Microsoft had negotiated the acquisition of ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Bethesda Softworks. This deal, reported by Bloomberg News to be worth $7.5bn, brings multiple major studios under their umbrella and bolsters the Xbox stable of triple-A franchises ahead of the next generation launch this November. According to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, the agreement 'more than doubles their gaming capacity'.
ZeniMax Media owns Bethesda (both development and publishing arms), id Software (veteran creators of DOOM and the id Tech game engine), Arkane Studios (Dishonoured and the upcoming Deathloop), Machine Games (Wolfenstein) and many more development houses. In all respects they are a gaming juggernaut, publishing titles for all major platforms and with multiple ongoing franchises.
The ZeniMax properties will join the likes of Mojang (itself acquired for $2.5bn in 2014), Obsidian entertainment, 343 Industries, Rare and The Coalition, who are each housed in the big tent known as Microsoft Game Studios.
Phil Spencer, Head of Xbox, was keen to stress the creative and technical accomplishments of each ZeniMax subsidiary, and highlighted some of the upcoming titles expected to arrive with the future generation of game consoles. In line with their long-term plans, Bethesda's titles will also be available through the Xbox Game Pass for console and PC (now possibly the best value package available in gaming).
Fallout and Skyrim are two huge franchises that will have been at the forefront of Microsoft's considerations
Ironically, two of Microsoft's newly acquired titles have timed console exclusivity on Sony's competing next-gen console. Last week Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo were confirmed to be available only through the Playstation 5 for a limited time, an arrangement that Microsoft will honour according Bloomberg. The exclusivity arraignments of other titles will reportedly be considered on a 'case by case' basis.
While the deal is unlikely to have a large impact on launch-day sales of either the Xbox Series X or PS5, it could have major ramifications on the catalogue of titles available on each platform deep into their projected life-cycles. Exclusivities, which Xbox has often been viewed as lacking, could suddenly become much more compelling on the platform. That being said, barring a major change of direction from Microsoft, PC gamers are unlikely to be adversely affected.
SOURCES: Bloomberg, Xbox Blog