Late last month, in the wake of two information-packed yet highly controversial online directs from Nintendo and PlayStation, rumors began to fly that Microsoft would be holding a special event of their own to counter the boasting of its rivals later in the month.
In the week that followed, videogame journalists Paul Thurrott and Jeff Grubb weighed in among several others as to what that event might actually be, honing in on March 11th or March 23rd as a possible date. Speculation regarding the nature of the event had grown so rampant by the end of February in fact that Xbox General Manager Aaron Greenberg himself had to hop on to Twitter, not to deny that the event was happening but rather to confirm that the event would not feature an update on Elden Ring, the much-anticipated George R.R. Martin and From Software game collaboration for which very little information exists beyond its E3 2019 announcement trailer to this day.
Fast forward to this week, which barely saw the ink dry on Microsoft’s acquisition of ZeniMax Media before both Xbox Head Phil Spencer and Bethesda Softworks’ VP Pete Hines took to their companies’ respective blogs to announce and celebrate Bethesda’s studios becoming part of Team Xbox, and it makes sense that the surprise event turned out to be what can only be described as a “warm and fuzzy” love-in between the two companies on YouTube.
The “Bethesda Joins Xbox” Roundtable was not brief either. Broadcast live from Bethesda Game Studios’ headquarters in Rockville, Maryland and clocking in at almost 75 minutes, the video brought together a panel of leading men and women from both sides of the deal to discuss its impact. From Xbox, the aforementioned Aaron Greenberg, Head of Xbox Head Phil Spencer and Head of Partnerships Sarah Bond (via teleconference) were on hand, while Bethesda Senior VP Pete Hines, Bethesda Game Studios Executive Producer Todd Howard, and Bethesda Global Marketing & Communications VP Erin Losi were also in attendance. In addition, Head of Xbox Game Studios Matt Booty (via teleconference) and Bethesda Senior VP of Development were brought in mid-program to share their stories and thoughts, and each of Bethesda’s eight studios (excluding new additions Roundhouse Studios and Alpha Dog Studios) sent introductory greeting videos in which the leaders of those studios similarly shared their enthusiasm being part of Bethesda and their excitement about becoming part of Team Xbox.
A large focus of the roundtable, which was deliberately light on any new details regarding Bethesda’s acquisition whatsoever, appeared to be aimed at reassuring viewers that the purchase was indeed a good move for both parties, as Microsoft and Bethesda share a long history and close relationship, which the panel members emphasized many times through multiple war stories. Their discussions highlighted the organic nature of collaborations between Bethesda’s studios, as well as the confidence of ZeniMax Media to trust in its studios’ projects and decisions, drawing several parallels between their “greenhouse” approach to development and Microsoft’s “bubble approach” in how it reportedly allows its current studios the freedom to make their best work.
Unsurprisingly, viewers who were hoping to get answers as to what the Bethesda acquisition means for the exclusivity of Bethesda games on Xbox platforms going forward didn’t get any more out of Phil Spencer than they did during his Monday post on Xbox Wire, other than that the words “Xbox-Exclusive” will be synonymous with Xbox Game Pass. “Obviously I can’t sit here and say that every Bethesda game is exclusive. We know that’s not true. There are contractual obligations that we’re going to see through, as we always do in every one of these instances,” Spencer clairfied. “…But, if (you’re) an Xbox customer the thing I want you to know is that this is about delivering great exclusive games for you that ship on platforms where Xbox Game Pass exists.”
Speaking of bringing games to Xbox Game Pass, Spencer also made good on his promise from Monday that more Bethesda games would be coming to the service this week, as it was announced by Sarah Bond (and on Xbox Wire) during the stream that 20 iconic Bethesda Games will be joining the Xbox Game Pass roster tomorrow (March 12th). Even better, 16 of the 20 selected titles will be “Play Anywhere” titles, meaning they can be played on any device that supports Xbox Game Pass, whether it be a console, a PC or via cloud gaming on a mobile device (N.B. an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate membership is required for cloud gaming on mobile). The 20 Bethesda titles coming to Xbox Game Pass are as follows:
- Dishonored Definitive Edition (Console, PC, Cloud)
- Dishonored 2 (Console, PC, Cloud)
- DOOM (1993) (Console, PC, Cloud)
- DOOM II (Console, PC, Cloud)
- DOOM 3 (Console, PC, Cloud)
- DOOM 64 (Console, PC, Cloud)
- DOOM Eternal (Console, PC, Cloud)
- The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (Console, PC)
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Console, PC)
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition (Console, PC, Cloud)
- The Elder Scrolls Online (Cloud, Console)
- The Evil Within (Console, PC, Cloud)
- Fallout 4 (Console, PC, Cloud)
- Fallout 76 (Console, PC, Cloud)
- Fallout: New Vegas (Console)
- Prey (Console, PC, Cloud)
- RAGE 2 (Console, PC, Cloud)
- Wolfenstein: The New Order (Console, PC, Cloud)
- Wolfenstein: The Old Blood (Console, PC, Cloud)
- Wolfenstein: Youngblood (Console, PC, Cloud)
As a cherry on top for next-gen Xbox console owners, Aaron Greenberg confirmed that a number of these backward-compatible titles will be receiving “FPS Boost” enhancements on the Xbox Series X and S. Finally, Greenberg and Losi jointly confirmed that there will be a “summer event” planned that will reveal more details about what Xbox and Bethesda’s new partnership will mean going forward.