Hot on the heels of yesterday’s EU approval of Microsoft’s ZeniMax Media acquisition, Xbox Head Phil Spencer took to Xbox Wire today to announce the completion of the purchase and to officially welcome Bethesda into the Xbox Family. Not one to downplay the importance of the occasion, Spencer made sure in his introduction to emphasize how quickly its roster of studios has grown by listing each of the eight newly-added development studios by name: Bethesda Game Studios, id Software, ZeniMax Online Studios, Arkane, MachineGames, Tango Gameworks, Alpha Dog, and Roundhouse Studios. “Now that everything is official, we can begin working together to deliver more great games to everyone,” said Spencer in the announcement post. “…Our goal is to give these teams the best foundation for doing their greatest work and to learn from them as we continue to build Xbox into an inclusive platform for all players.”
Of course, one of the biggest questions that has been hanging like a fog over the $7.5 billion Xbox-Bethesda deal since it was first announced has been about whether any or all of Bethesda’s existing and/or future IPs would ultimately become exclusive to the Xbox platform (which encompasses Xbox consoles, PC and Cloud Gaming via Xbox Game Pass and Xbox App-compatible devices, including tablets and mobile phones). Many videogame industry pundits who have been watching this story closely have predicted that we would have the long-awaited answer to that question shortly following the completion of the ZeniMax purchase, and Spencer finally gave us that answer…at least, sort of. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Spencer’s words hewed very close to his previous comments on the matter almost a year ago, where he suggested that Xbox-exclusive games from Bethesda would be decided on a “case by case” basis. “With the addition of the Bethesda creative teams, gamers should know that Xbox consoles, PC, and Game Pass will be the best place to experience new Bethesda games, including some new titles in the future that will be exclusive to Xbox and PC players,” Spencer pledged. “…It’s vitally important that Bethesda continues making games the way it always has. We look forward to empowering Bethesda’s creative teams to reach even more players around the world, helping make future Bethesda titles the biggest and most popular games in their history. Xbox and Bethesda have long shared a common vision for the future of gaming. Both as fans and as creators, Bethesda understands the potential of Xbox Game Pass.”
While Spencer’s statements might seem a tad vague, when one reads between the lines they strongly appear to imply that when it comes to Xbox exclusivity and Bethesda’s IPs, Microsoft has indeed elected to take the middle path and will be strategic in how it chooses which IPs won’t be showing up on rival platforms (namely Sony’s PlayStation 5 and Nintendo’s Switch console). In particular, the suggestion that Bethesda will be left to operate as it “always has” and that it “understands the potential of Xbox Game Pass” seems to back the popular theory that exclusivity of most of Bethesda’s games will be closely intertwined with Microsoft’s subscription service, likely being offered as timed exclusives before eventually being released for sale on other competing platforms. As all new first party Xbox titles launch into Xbox Game Pass at no additional cost for subscribers, the ability to play Bethesda’s next big game several months to a year before it comes to PlayStation (if ever) is a compelling argument for a gamer who enjoys Bethesda’s type of games to purchase an Xbox (or at least an Xbox Game Pass subscription), and getting that game for free as opposed to having to pay full price for it on the competition’s platform is arguably an even bigger one, exclusivity window or not.
It will probably be a while before we have clearer details about how Bethesda Xbox-exclusives are actually going to work in practice, but in the meantime, Xbox Game Pass members can look forward to additional Bethesda games arriving on Xbox Game Pass later this week now that all the studios under the ZeniMax Media umbrella and their IPs are now officially Xbox first party studios and franchises. More details to come.