The Gaming landscape completely changed yesterday when Microsoft announced it had agreed to acquire Zenimax Media, parent company of Bethesda softworks for 7.5 Billion Dollars. Bethesda is a huge company comprised of eight studios who are known for critically acclaimed franchises like The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Doom, Starfield, Wolfenstein, Dishonored, Prey, and more. This is a monumental acquisition for Xbox, who now own more studios than Playstation or Nintendo, and have a plethora of critically acclaimed IP.
The question was quickly raised about what this means for Bethesda games on non Xbox platforms. Microsoft didn’t directly answer to what the strategy would be, but Phil Spencer did say they would release some of Bethesda’s games on other platforms on a “case by case basis.” While there are a few good reasons why Xbox would keep games like The Elder Scrolls, Fallout and others multiplatform, there are plenty more reasons why Xbox will not keep these games multiplatform.
One obvious reason is that Xbox needs exclusive games. Xbox has done a fantastic job of building and acquiring studios over the last few years. Even with these moves the one criticism, fair or unfair, is that their first party lineup is underwhelming. With Bethesda becoming a first party powerhouse overnight, there is now a case to be made that Xbox has arguably the best collection of first party franchises. This makes the Xbox ecosystem extremely hard to ignore for any gamer. Keeping these games exclusive would match with what Xbox’s number one goal is which is to get people into their ecosystem. While losing out on millions of dollars from Playstation sales would hurt, in the long run it would benefit Xbox if they can grow the number of people who are tied to their ecosystem.
This ties into Gamepass, which Microsoft recently announced has reached 15 million subscribers, growing by 5 million in less than 6 months. Gamepass is the crown jewel of the Xbox strategy. They want everyone subscribed to GamePass, and having Bethesda games day one will ensure that GamePass continues to rapidly grow. Microsoft wants to be known as the ecosystem that has The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Starfield, Doom, and all the other great Bethesda IP. Releasing on competing platforms doesn’t really make sense if Xbox wants to attract non Xbox gamers to their ecosystem. They want to make Xbox undeniable, and keeping these games exclusive does that for most people.
The only real case there is that these games might end up on other platforms is that Minecraft is on all platforms. This is a very unique case and simply isn’t applicable to what Xbox will do in the future. Minecraft was a phenomenon before Microsoft acquired Mojang, and it made more sense to let Mojang continue on their path to let all games under the Minecraft IP continue on as multiplatform. That won’t be happening for the most part with Bethesda. Games that are already released and already established, specifically The Elder Scrolls Online and Fallout 76, will stay multiplatform.
Once the ink is dry on the deal and all other previously agreed to deals have been met, Bethesda will become a true Xbox first party. Xbox wants you in their ecosystem, and making you come to them for Bethesda games is just one way they plan on drawing players in.