In a stunning move for the gaming industry, Microsoft has announced they are acquiring ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Bethesda Softworks (The Elder Scrolls, Fallout). Bethesda is home to over 2,000 people worldwide in several game studios, including id Software (DOOM) and Arkane (Dishonored).
As reported by Jason Schreier at Bloomberg, Microsoft is spending $7.5 Billion on the purchase – three times what they paid for Minecraft developer Mojang in 2014 ($2.5B). Microsoft has been scooping up smaller game developers over the last several years as they build an impressive portfolio for their Netflix-like gaming subscription service, Xbox Game Pass.
“We will be adding Bethesda’s iconic franchises to Xbox Game Pass for console and PC,” said Phil Spencer, Head of Xbox. “One of the things that has me most excited is seeing the roadmap with Bethesda’s future games, some announced and many unannounced, to Xbox console and PC including Starfield, the highly anticipated, new space epic currently in development by Bethesda Game Studios.
“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.”
Though the Elder Scrolls RPG series has been around since the 90s, it wasn’t until 2002’s Morrowind, and especially 2006’s Oblivion, that Bethesda reached a heightened level of popularity as a premiere big-budget RPG studio, a wave that continued through 2008’s Fallout 3, 2011’s Skyrim, and 2015’s Fallout 4.
The Dishonored series are beloved first-person stealth immersive sims, and Id’s reboot of Doom has been incredibly well-received. Recently Bethesda’s star has begun to dim, however, with the 2018 release of Fallout 76, an online multiplayer spin-off that was plagued with bugs and poor quality.
“Microsoft is an incredible partner and offers access to resources that will make us a better publisher and developer,” said Pete Hines, SVP of PR and Marketing. “We believe that means better games for you to play. Simply put – we believe that change is an important part of getting better. […] We’re going to continue doing what we know and love: making great games. We’re going to keep trying new things. We’re going to take the same passion we’ve poured into what we do, and the passion that our community brings to the things we make, and do even better.”
The next game in the Elder Scrolls series was announced along with Starfield, a sci-fi RPG, during Bethesda’s conference in E3 2018, but we’ve had no updates since. The next published games by Bethesda Softworks are Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo, both slated to release in 2021 – and both PlayStation 5 timed exclusives.