Microsoft to Acquire Bethesda Softworks for $7.5 Billion

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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.

Microsoft Confirms Xbox Series S Price After Leak

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In the Console Cold War between Sony and Microsoft, both gaming giants have been hesitant to be the first to reveal prices for their next gen consoles, releasing this fall. It appears a leak has forced Microsoft to confirm the price of their smaller, cheaper Xbox Series S: $299.

Brad Sams of tech site Thurrott posted the news yesterday, along with a YouTube video. After playing coy on Twitter, Microsoft finally confirmed the news late last night with a single image, describing the Xbox Series S as “next gen performance in the smallest Xbox ever.”

Like Sony, Microsoft is producing two different consoles for two different price points. The Xbox Series S is physically much smaller than the Xbox Series X, and looks like it removes the optical disc drive in favor of all-digital gaming. Given how well-received the Xbox Game Pass has been, the Series S could be a very popular option.

Microsoft hasn’t confirmed system specs for the Xbox Series S. But twitter user WalkingCat posted a video that revealed hardware details in what looks like a console trailer. Specs include Raytracing, 1440 resolution up to 120 fps (with 4K upscaling) and a 512 GB solid state drive.

With the cat out of the bag, expect official details, and more next-gen console news, to come sooner rather than later.

Halo Infinite Delayed Into Next Year

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While originally slated as an important launch title for the Xbox Series X in November, Microsoft and 343 Industries have announced that Halo Infinite has been delayed into 2021.

In a statement released on Twitter, Chris Lee, studio head at 343 Industries, stated the following:

We made the difficult decision to shift our release to 2021 to ensure the team has adequate time to deliver a Halo game experience that metes our vision. The decision to shift our release is the result of multiple factors that have contributed to development challenges, including the ongoing COVID-related impacts affecting us all this year. It is not sustainable for the well-being of our team or the overall success of the game to ship it his holiday.

Halo Infinite was first announced with a teaser trailer in E3 2018. We didn’t get our first glimpse of actual gameplay until last month, however, during the Xbox Games Showcase. Reception from fans and critics was very mixed, leading to 343 Industries to respond with a lengthy blog post, including addressing the graphics and art style:

We do have work to do to address some of these areas and raise the level of fidelity and overall presentation for the final game. While some of the feedback was expected and speaks to areas already in progress, other aspects of the feedback have brought new opportunities and considerations to light that the team is taking very seriously and working to assess.

A release date for Halo Infinite has not yet been announced. Meanwhile, Microsoft confirmed the Xbox Series X is launching this November.