In the midst of high heat court battle between two major video games console platforms, Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s PlayStation, the Chief of Microsoft’s Xbox, Phil Spencer, the reasoning behind them acquiring Bethesda’s parent company, ZeniMax, is because of potential attempt for PlayStation to make Bethesda’s highly anticipated upcoming game, Starfield, to be exclusive for PS5. Phil revealed that Sony regularly pays game studios a sum of money to “skip our platform” which pushes Microsoft to acquire Bethesda in order to keep being competitive in the console market.
Spencer also added “When we acquired ZeniMax one of the impetus for that is that Sony had done a deal for Deathloop and Ghostwire… to pay Bethesda to not ship those games on Xbox. So the discussion about Starfield when we heard that Starfield was potentially also going to end up skipping Xbox, we can’t be in a position as a third-place console where we fall further behind on our content ownership so we’ve had to secure content to remain viable in the business.”
When and how much did Microsoft Pay for Bethesda?
On 21 September 2020, Microsoft announced the plan to purchase ZeniMax Media, the parent company of the game studio Bethesda Softworks for a total amount of $7.5 billion. For the last couple of years, Bethesda has been popularly known for its IP release of the Elder Scrolls series and Fallout series.
At the closing deal, Microsoft promises a release exclusivity for Xbox and PC which so far has been proven by the shipment of Bethesda’s most recent release, Redfall. The upcoming games Starfield and Indiana Jones Game are also planned to be released on both platforms.
Does Microsoft own Bethesda?
Yes, as of 3 September 2021, Microsoft has finalised the deal to acquire ZeniMax Media to be absorbed into Xbox Game Studios which in its part of the deal, also means that Microsoft owns ZeniMax’s subsidiaries with one of them being Bethesda Softworks.
Alongside Bethesda, other studios that Microsoft have acquired as part of the deal include Alpha Dog Games, Arkane Studios, id Software, MachineGames, Roundhouse Studios, Tango Gameworks, and ZeniMax Online Studios. Of the acquired 8 studios, 6 of them have released several notable game IPs.
The IPs in question are:
- Dishonored (Arkane Studios)
- The Elder Scrolls, Fallout (Bethesda SoftWorks)
- Doom, Quake, and Wolfenstein (up to 2008) (id Software)
- Wolfenstein (2014) (MachineGames Sweden)
- The Evil Within, The Evil Within 2, and Ghostwire: Tokyo (Tango Gameworks)
- The Elder Scrolls Online (ZeniMax Online Studios)
As the studios have been acquired by Microsoft, several notable Bethesda games have gradually become available as part of the Xbox and PC Game Pass library. Game Pass is Microsoft’s subscription service that allows users to access a vast library of triple-A PC games for a monthly fee.
Both Xbox and PC Game Pass have also become more accessible throughout the world as Microsoft has spread its official support to even more countries. We have already written an article about it in PC Game Pass is Available in 40 New Countries.
During the court battle between Microsoft and Sony, Xbox’s Chief revealed that the reason behind the acquisition of ZeniMax Studio is due to Xbox’s concern about Sony keeping the game studio from releasing its titles on the Xbox platform by sponsoring them with a sum of money for the production and instead making it exclusive to the PS5.
Therefore, 3 September 2021 is when Microsoft buy Bethesda as part of the Zenimax Studio acquisition. This results in several notable Bethesda games such as The Elder Scrolls and Fallout now becoming available on PC and Xbox Game Pass. Xbox Bethesda acquisition costs Microsoft $7.5 billion.