It would be fair to say that in gaming, acquisitions don’t come much bigger than Microsoft purchasing Bethesda.
The announcement sent shockwaves through the industry last year, partially because of the magnitude of the company being purchased, and partially because of its price tag – a cool seven-and-a-half billion dollars.
Xbox and Bethesda: Why It's A Match Made In Heaven
In truth, it actually makes a lot of sense. Microsoft has traditionally struggled to provide compelling reasons to purchase an Xbox (although having Windows under its belt somewhat negates that), and bringing in Bethesda gives them eight new studios and an insane number of popular IP.
Even those in the casual space will have heard of the likes of Fallout, Skyrim, Doom or Wolfenstein. Tying these to a console, be it in terms of an exclusive or simply through marketing deals, is a very good look from Microsoft’s perspective.
Then there’s Bethesda, a company that has arguably had a rough few years. Leaving aside the obvious (Fallout 76), Wolfenstein: Youngblood wasn’t as well-received as its predecessors, and as genuinely incredible as Dishonored 2 was, the game simply didn’t shift enough units to keep the franchise viable.
Backing up these teams with Microsoft’s vast resources (not to mention cash), is likely to mean we end up with better games. Sure, I’m sure the 'ol' Bethesda jank’ will still be present in the likes of The Elder Scrolls VI and Fallout 5 whenever they do arrive, but just maybe they’ll be a smidge more polished.
Of course, Microsoft’s method of getting these games into players’ hands is arguably just as important as having the games.
Xbox Game Pass currently has 18 million subscribers (at least count, anyway). That’s 18 million people that can jump into Starfield when it drops, or jump into Skyrim for the first time. It’s a huge added value for subscribers, in the same way that Sony adds value with the likes of God of War and Spider-Man as console exclusives.
Speaking of Sony, if Microsoft does opt to make Bethesda’s games exclusive to Xbox, that’s undoubtedly a shame. PS5 owners will get Deathloop very soon, but not being able to play the likes of Starfield, or even Machine Games’ Indiana Jones title (potentially), will be a bitter pill to swallow.
That said, console exclusives have been part of the fabric of gaming for years. In the last generation, we had the excellent Sunset Overdrive on Xbox One, a franchise likely never to return thanks to Sony’s acquisition of developer Insomniac. The generation before that we had Uncharted vs Halo. Before that, it was God of War vs, erm, Halo.
If nothing else, as a neutral it’s nice to see Microsoft make big moves when many predicted they’d drop out of the console business entirely. Competition is healthy, folks.