In a move that is sure to shake up the industry, Microsoft announced today that they have acquired ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Bethesda Softworks. Microsoft now owns Bethesda and all of its studios — Bethesda Game Studios, id Software, ZeniMax Online Studios, Arkane, MachineGames, TangoGameworks, Alpha Dog, and Roundhouse Studios. This means a variety of popular game franchises are now under Microsoft’s ownership, such as Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls and Fallout, Arkane’s Dishonored and Prey, MachineGames’ Wolfenstein, id Software’s Doom, and many others. This acquisition also undoubtedly includes future titles, such as Bethesda’s upcoming Starfield and Elder Scrolls VI.
Bethesda’s willingness to collaborate with Microsoft is nothing new — the companies worked together to bring game modifications for Skyrim: Special Edition and Fallout 4 to the Xbox One, making mods easily accessible to console gamers for the first time (rival console manufacturer Sony notably restricted mods for these games out of security concerns stemming from user-made assets). In addition, many Bethesda titles have been featured on Microsoft’s landmark Xbox Game Pass, allowing players to access a variety of games using a monthly subscription. So, this acquisition does not come completely out of the blue.
Still, this is big news, especially given the upcoming release of the Xbox Series X and the Playstation 5. Microsoft has received criticism in the past for its lack of compelling exclusives, and the recent delay of Halo: Infinite robbed the new console of a popular launch title from a long-running series. With the acquisition of Bethesda, Microsoft now has a variety of popular game franchises stocked in their arsenal that they can utilize as exclusives to draw market share from Sony. How this announcement will affect sales of the new consoles remains to be seen, but it might just give buyers who are on the fence enough of a push to choose Xbox over Playstation.