In what could prove to be a massive shakeup in the video game industry, Microsoft’s XBox Game Studios has agreed to acquire ZeniMax Media, the studio network that owns such massive franchises as Fallout, The Elder Scrolls, Doom, Quake and Wolfenstein in a $7.5 billion deal.
ZeniMax and Microsoft confirmed the buyout this morning with statements to the Bethesda and XBox web sites. Phil Spencer, head of Micrsoft’s XBox division, said in his statement:
Just as they took the bold first steps to bring The Elder Scrolls franchise to the original Xbox, Bethesda were early supporters of Xbox Game Pass, bringing their games to new audiences across devices and have been actively investing in new gaming technology like cloud streaming of games. We will be adding Bethesda’s iconic franchises to Xbox Game Pass for console and PC. 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.Phil Spencer, XBox Blog – September 21, 2020
Bethesda Game Studios director & executive producer Todd Howard released a statement as well, praising the company’s long-standing relationship with Microsoft and expressing excitement at the deal:
Like our original partnership, this one is about more than one system or one screen. We share a deep belief in the fundamental power of games, in their ability to connect, empower, and bring joy. And a belief we should bring that to everyone – regardless of who you are, where you live, or what you play on. Regardless of the screen size, the controller, or your ability to even use one.
We can’t think of a better group of people to do that with than those at Xbox. We have friendships that go back to those original days. From Phil to his senior leaders to developer support, they don’t just talk about putting players first, they passionately live it.Todd Howard, Bethesda Blog – September 21, 2020
Microsoft announced the next iteration of its XBox platform earlier this month, the performance-centric XBox Series X and the budget-minded XBox Series S, both releasing on November 10.
There is a great deal of speculation as to whether the next generation of games from ZeniMax’ studios will now be XBox exclusives. Bethesda SVP of Global Marketing & PR Pete Hines noted that Bethesda will continue to act as a publisher, seemingly a reassurance that their games will continue to be cross-platform:
Bethesda Softworks, our parent company ZeniMax Media, and our many internal studios, now employ thousands of talented people working in publishing offices and development studios around the world. We’ve gone from one internal studio to many; from a focus on single-player fantasy RPGS to developing massive MMOs, first person shooters, and everything in between. The world, our industry, and our company has changed a lot in the 34 years since Bethesda Softworks was first founded. Today, it changed again. And I know that brings up questions.
But the key point is we’re still Bethesda. We’re still working on the same games we were yesterday, made by the same studios we’ve worked with for years, and those games will be published by us.Pete Hines, Bethesda Blog – September 21, 2020
There is precedent for this, as Microsoft’s purchase of Mojang in 2014 has not prevented that studio from continuing to produce Minecraft games for Sony & Nintendo consoles, iOS & Android.