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.

Summer Game Fest Demo Event Features 70+ Unreleased Xbox Game Demos

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As part of Geoff Keighley’s Summer Games Fest, Microsoft is running a special event this week, the Summer Games Fest Demo Event. The event runs from July 21 to July 27, and features over 70 demos of upcoming Xbox games.

Unlike most game demos, these demos are pulled from unreleased, and in many cases, unfinished games, and will only be available this week.

Demos include indie JRPG Cris Tales, action-RPG Hellpoint, the Destroy All Humans remaster, and Raji, an action-adventure game set in ancient India.

“Many of these demos are early, and some are for games that won’t be out for quite some time,” writes Glenn Gregory, Sr. Product Marketing Manager at Xbox. “We’ve never done this before; what that means is that you’ll get to experience these games early – some way early – which is awesome, but you should also note that these games will continue to evolve and be polished as they near release. In other words, think of these as akin to ‘show floor demos’ and not necessarily indicative of the final product.”

Developers are encouraging users to provide feedback via social media and official game websites. A full list of all free demos can be found in the press release linked above. The Summer Games Fest Demo Event ends July 27.

In related news, the Xbox Games Showcase will air on July 23rd at 9 am Pacific/12 pm Eastern.

Save on Last Gen Games with the Xbox Backward Compatibility Sale

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The Xbox Backward Compatibility Sale returns this year with even more discounts on original Xbox and Xbox 360 games. Over 200 games from previous Microsoft consoles have been steeply discounted up to 75% on the Microsoft and Xbox digital stores.

Every game on the sale can be played on the Xbox One via the Backwards Compatibility Program. If you’re using the same account, you’ll even keep your old game saves, achievements, and Gamerscore.

The sale includes many high profile games and series, including the first Red Dead Redemption, the Gears of War series, Halo series, the Fable series, the BioShock series, and several LEGO and Call of Duty games.

If you have an Xbox One but haven’t looked into the Xbox 360’s impressively deep library, this sale is a great place to start. We’ve highlighted some notable games below:

  • Dragon Age: Origins ($3.74)
  • Fable 3 ($9.99)
  • Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning ($4.99)
  • Mass Effect 2 ($5.99)
  • Mass Effect 3 ($5.99)
  • Red Dead Redemption ($9.89)
  • Shadow Complex ($7.49)
  • Spec Ops: The Line ($5.99)
  • XCOM: Enemy Within ($7.99)

Note that many games in the sale have since been remastered and released for modern consoles, such as the BioShock series with BioShock: The Collection, the Halo sereis with Halo: The Master Chief Collection, and the Borderlands series with Borderlands: The Handsome Collection and Borderlands: Game of the Year Edition.

Several last gen games have been enhanced when playing on Xbox One X, such as Red Dead Redemption and Splinter Cell Blacklist. The enhancement expands color, pixel count, and resolution.

The Xbox Compatibility Sale ends May 27.