Microsoft has taken a major step in bolstering its Xbox first-party studios lineup today with a $7.5 billion (cash) acquisition of ZeniMax Media, parent company of the esteemed developer Bethesda Softworks.
In a blog post over on Xbox’s official website, head of Xbox Phil Spencer explained that he’s “had many deep conversations with the creative leaders at Bethesda on the future of gaming and we’ve long shared similar visions for the opportunities for creators and their games to reach more players in more ways.”
Bethesda is one of the most prestigious developers and publishers in the games industry, having created acclaimed and beloved franchises like The Elder Scrolls and Fallout, with the upcoming Starfield title one of the most anticipated next-generation games on the horizon. The publishing side of the company, meanwhile, owns IP rights to popular franchises like DOOM, Wolfenstein, RAGE, Quake, and Prey.
An accompanying press release outlines Microsoft’s plan to add all of Bethesda’s games to Xbox Game Pass moving forward. It explains that this “includes Microsoft’s intent to bring Bethesda’s future games into Xbox Game Pass the same day they launch on Xbox or PC, like Starfield, the highly anticipated, new space epic currently in development by Bethesda Game Studios.
As yet, there’s no word on what sort of exclusivity arrangements will be in place moving forward, but you’d have to imagine it means a number of major games, like the aforementioned Starfield, could be destined to be Microsoft exclusives, which would be a massive scoop for the brand.
Spencer makes special mention of Microsoft and Bethesda’s shared vision for games moving forward:
“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.”
Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft, weighed in with his own statement:
“Gaming is the most expansive category in the entertainment industry, as people everywhere turn to gaming to connect, socialize and play with their friends. Quality differentiated content is the engine behind the growth and value of Xbox Game Pass—from Minecraft to Flight Simulator. As a proven game developer and publisher, Bethesda has seen success across every category of games, and together, we will further our ambition to empower the more than three billion gamers worldwide.”
While ZeniMax Media chairman and CEO Robert A. Altman added:
“This is a thrilling day for this company, our employees, and our fans. We have enjoyed a close partnership with Microsoft for decades, and this deal is a natural progression of those years working together.
The big winners today are our fans. We are continuing to develop our slate of AAA games, but now with Microsoft’s scale and entire Game Stack, our games can only get better.”
Today’s press release concludes with a forward-looking statement that explains Microsoft is expecting “the acquisition to close in the second half of fiscal year 2021 and to have minimal impact to non-GAAP operating income in fiscal years 2021 and 2022.”