Microsoft Acquires Bethesda Parent Company ZeniMax Media

Microsoft has acquired ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Bethesda, in a surprising move that has sent shockwaves throughout the gaming industry. The deal reportedly has cost the Redmond tech company roughly $7-7.5 billion. According to the announcement, the entire acquisition includes all the assets, properties, IPs, id software, hit games under the Bethesda Softworks banner from DOOM to Elder Scrolls, and more.

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In addition to picking up ZeniMax Media, the agreement will put all aspects of the company management, including its development studios, under the control of Microsoft. This move marks a huge statement from the maker of Xbox Series X and Series S consoles as it attempts a reversal of fortunes against Sony’s PlayStation behemoth which completely overshadowed its primary rival in the previous generation console war.

Today is a special day, as we welcome some of the most accomplished studios in the games industry to Xbox. We are thrilled to announce Microsoft has entered into an agreement to acquire ZeniMax Media, parent company of Bethesda Softworks.

As one of the largest, most critically acclaimed, privately held game developers and publishers in the world, Bethesda is an incredibly talented group of 2,300 people worldwide who make up some of the most accomplished creative studios in our industry across Bethesda Softworks, Bethesda Game Studios, id Software, ZeniMax Online Studios, Arkane, MachineGames, Tango Gameworks, Alpha Dog, and Roundhouse Studios. These are the teams responsible for franchises like The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Wolfenstein, DOOM, Dishonored, Prey, Quake, Starfield and many more.

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It is safe to presume that going forward the popular game franchises, such as Quake and DOOM, would also be exclusive to Xbox consoles and PC while discounting the possibility of any cross-platform releases in the future:

As one of the largest, most critically acclaimed, privately held game developers and publishers in the world, Bethesda is an incredibly talented group of 2,300 people worldwide who make up some of the most accomplished creative studios in our industry across Bethesda Softworks, Bethesda Game Studios, id Software, ZeniMax Online Studios, Arkane, MachineGames, Tango Gameworks, Alpha Dog, and Roundhouse Studios. These are the teams responsible for franchises like The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Wolfenstein, DOOM, Dishonored, Prey, Quake, Starfield and many more.

Bethesda’s games have always had a special place on Xbox and in the hearts of millions of gamers around the world. Our teams have a close and storied history working together, from the amazing first DOOM, and its id Tech engine, innovating games on PCs to Bethesda bringing their first console game to the original Xbox, the groundbreaking The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. Over the years I’ve had many deep conversations with the creative leaders at Bethesda on the future of gaming and we’ve long shared similar visions for the opportunities for creators and their games to reach more players in more ways.

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.

According to a tweet sent out by Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier, Microsoft is shelling out $7.5 billion for the outright acquisition, rounding off the single largest buyout that the gaming sphere has seen in recent times.

Bethesda’s own representatives Todd Howard and Pete Hines have also chimed in with their take on the deal outlining their side of the rationale:

Pete Hines:

So why the change? Because it allows us to make even better games going forward. Microsoft is an incredible partner and offers access to resources that will make us a better publisher and developer. We believe that means better games for you to play. Simply put – we believe that change is an important part of getting better. We believe in pushing ourselves to be better. To innovate. To grow.

And, we have a long history of working with Microsoft. Our companies share many of the same basic principles. We believe in a culture that values passion, quality, collaboration, and innovation. When I think back to the first time we decided to shift from being a PC-only developer and make Morrowind for the original Xbox, it was a move that countless people said would never work…nobody on consoles wanted a game that big and complex. But Microsoft believed in us and so did you. And now RPGs of all shapes and sizes are hugely successful on consoles.

Yes, it’s a big change for us, but after taking a minute to absorb the magnitude of this acquisition, we’re going to continue doing what we know and love: making great games. We’re going to keep trying new things. We’re going to take the same passion we’ve poured into what we do, and the passion that our community brings to the things we make, and do even better.

Todd Howard:

With each new console cycle, we evolved together. From bringing mods to consoles with Fallout 4, now over a billion downloads, to the latest technologies fueling Xbox Series X/S. These new systems are optimized for the vast worlds we love to create, with generational leaps not just in graphics, but CPU and data streaming as well. It’s led to our largest engine overhaul since Oblivion, with all new technologies powering our first new IP in 25 years, Starfield, as well as The Elder Scrolls VI.

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.

Incidentally, Microsoft paying a mammoth $7.5 billion for acquiring the private game publisher, and by extension Bethesda Softworks, concludes the largest acquisition in the company’s history.

The huge price stage not only includes Bethesda Softworks alone, but also consists of ZeniMax Online Studios (The Elder Scrolls Online), Arkane Studios (Dishonored, Prey), and Tango Gameworks ( GhostWire: Tokyo, The Evil Within).

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It’s pretty obvious what Microsoft is trying to achieve here. Sony has long established its hegemony over-delivering first-party exclusive game titles with impressive consistency. After years of lagging behind in terms of platform-exclusive titles, Microsoft seems to have finally run out of patience and decided to make every move necessary to ensure that Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S become a success story. And there are few better ways to achieve this objective in a short period of time than leveraging its superior balance sheet compared to that of Sony.

This sentiment is echoed by DFC Intelligence, which predicts that this acquisition represents an upshot for Microsoft’s flagging game business division and help retain a dominant position it once held in the industry.

Overall the acquisition is further signs that while Xbox hardware can not compete with the PlayStation brand in the short term, Microsoft is better equipped to focus on a long-term vision. Bethesda adds a large library of titles for both Game Pass and cloud streaming services across both Xbox and PC.

Key Bethesda franchises include the Fallout and Elder Scrolls RPG series. These are games that do well on both console and PC and include major online components. These two franchises alone may be worth the purchase price.

While Xbox chief Phil Spencer says that Microsoft fully intends to honor the commitment Bethesda Softworks has with Sony regarding two PS5-exclusives named Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo. That said, what will transpire once agreements made prior to the acquisition are concluded remains shrouded under the clouds of mystery.

Starfield and Elder Scrolls VI are among the most promising upcoming games from Bethesda. Both of these titles should be available on Xbox Game Pass, making Microsoft’s gaming platform a lot more palatable option for the players.

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