Just when you thought the gaming landscape was beginning to simmer down before the release of next generation consoles in the form of the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5, out of nowhere Microsoft drops the news that they are purchasing long established and well recognized parent company of Bethesda, ZeniMax Media.
From the outside this might just sound like a big company buying up another big company but it’s the main question that this acquisition raises that is the most interesting and that is ‘will all the titles from these studios become Xbox and Windows exclusives and what does this do to the landscape of the gaming market?’ While the console wars between Microsoft and Sony have certainly died down in recent years with Microsoft choosing to focus a lot more on their paid subscription services such as Xbox Game Pass further being proved this year by their announcement that EA Play, an up until then separate subscription service offering purchasers access to a vast library of EA games would now also be included in Xbox Game Pass Ultimate and Sony on the other hand really pushing their exclusive games that are set to launch with the PlayStation 5 on November 12th in selected countries and November 19th worldwide such as Insomniac’s ‘Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales’, ‘Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart’ and many more. This purchase however could possibly shift the whole gaming landscape. In Microsoft’s purchase of ZeniMax Media this now gives them ownership of previously mentioned Bethesda Studios who in turn also own game developers id Software, Arkane Studios, Machine Games and Tango Gameworks creators of much beloved franchises such as DOOM, Quake, The Evil Within, The Elder Scrolls, the Fallout series, Dishonoured, Prey and so much more whilst not even beginning to think about the games the studios have in development which include the both eagerly and long awaited Starfield and The Elder Scrolls VI. If all these franchises were to be made solely exclusive to Xbox and Windows in theory this would most likely level the playing field between Microsoft and Sony and would most likely make peoples already difficult decision as to which console to buy this winter all that more challenging. Coming back to our initial question though, ‘would Microsoft make these titles exclusive?’ Well, in an interview with Bloomberg News vice-president of Gaming at Microsoft and head of Xbox Phil Spencer announced that Bethesda games will be available on Xbox and PC but will be available on “other consoles on a case by case basis” with may now beginning to speculate as to what this might entail. It should be noted that ZeniMax Media owned games such as Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo which were initially announced to be PS5 exclusives will still only be available on the PS5. Many have speculated that possibly similar to the Call of Duty franchise on PlayStation that timed exclusivity could be the way that Microsoft are looking at handling this situation with games coming out on both consoles but at different times with others rumouring that major franchise games such as DOOM and Fallout could see similar treatment to Minecraft which was purchased by Microsoft back in 2009 and has since been released on both Sony and Microsoft consoles. It cannot be understated though that Microsoft’s acquisition of ZeniMax is by far one of the biggest purchases on a content level that they’ve made to date with Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella saying “with the acquisition of Bethesda, we metaphorically and literally double our gaming content capacity”. Depending on the way this situation develops it might actually play into the hands of the consumer with new titles being released via Game Pass which would expand the library of that even more and rather than an individual paying €60-€70 for a single game as has been the case recently we may begin to see a further increase in people opting to pay for an ever expanding library of games for only €12.99 a month and as to whether those games will be exclusive to Xbox and Windows we’ll just have to wait an see.