So, Microsoft acquires Bethesda, and just like that the console war is back on, right? In what might be the largest shot across the bow of Sony yet, Microsoft has dropped 7.5 billion-with-a-b dollars to acquire the Elder Scrolls developer. The move will bring them a slough of popular franchises, including Fallout and Doom. So what does it mean? Does this give Microsoft a leg up on Sony? Will we remember “Microsoft acquires Bethesda” as the day their fortunes changed? Let’s dive in.
A slough of major IPs in the Microsoft library
Microsoft has spent the better part of the last few years hoovering up studios to develop for them. The results have been mixed. Acquiring studios like Double Fine makes for a good headline, but as far as your catalog it only does so much. Bethesda is not Double Fine. They are well above and beyond it. Here are some of the IPs that Microsoft now gets to tinker around with.
- Elder Scrolls
- And the list goes on
That’s not even to mention some of the more marginally successful titles in their library like Rage. The Microsoft library just got a lot more interesting, which is probably why they were willing to cut the check. Don’t expect to see any of these titles coming to PS5 any time soon.
But can’t I still play these games on PC?
Well, the answer to that is technically ‘we don’t know.’ In all likelihood, yes, you will still be able to. Microsoft has a long-standing policy of releasing all of their games on both Xbox and on PC and I don’t foresee that changing even with this acquisition. One place you will not be playing them however is on PS5. Unless Sony is willing to cut Microsoft a huge check, these games will not be on any Sony systems in the next-gen or ever again.
So as Microsoft acquires Bethesda, I can help but feel it doesn’t solve the issue they have with getting people to buy their consoles, You can just play it on PC. But hang with me a moment. I don’t think that’s the goal. If anything, this seems to me like another step towards Microsoft going the Sega route and becoming a game publisher.
Game publisher or console developer?
Make no mistake, I’m a strong believer in competition. I believe having three major console competitors in the space is a good thing, and I would lament the loss of one of them. But from Microsoft’s perspective, it makes all the sense in the world. A couple of years ago, there was a crazy rush in the industry to create the ‘Netflix of gaming.’ A streaming service where you could get games for a fixed cost each month. Many tried, but truly, only Microsoft succeeded. Xbox GamePass is freakin’ awesome, and you will never hear me say a bad word about it.
The tricky part is though if you scrap your console, then it’s very easy for developers to just go work with Sony rather than GamePass. Why would you work with Microsoft to get put on Sony’s platform through GamePass rather than just go straight to Sony? The answer is you wouldn’t… unless you’re owned by Microsoft. Microsoft has developed a large roster of game creators, each of which is beholden to the GamePass architecture. With Bethesda under their belts, they have enough punch to survive even without the Xbox console existing.
The last console for Xbox?
I believe we are watching the final console release for Xbox. But Microsoft isn’t going anywhere. GamePass and its Bethesda infused library of games will be appearing on other console platforms in the future, but only with a major check cut to Microsoft. This is of course just my prediction, and I’ve been known to be wrong. But all of the tea leaves say to me this is the direction they are going. It makes sense. But then again, when has the gaming industry ever made sense?
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Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for Bethesda