Art by Quendan Comari
Microsoft has purchased Zenimax Media for 7.5 billion U.S. dollars (USD), deepening the bench of the software giant’s “in-house” talent. The move comes less than two years after Microsoft purchased independent game studio Obsidian Entertainment, as well as five smaller studios, and will almost certainly see the Seattle software house lead the way in PC gaming for the next few release cycles.
WORST PARTY TO FIRST PARTY
Quoted in the BBC’s coverage of the landmark deal, Piers Harding-Rolls with Ampere Analysis said, “Microsoft has often been criticized for its lack of heavy-hitting first-party games franchises when compared to Sony and Nintendo. This deal catapults Microsoft’s games portfolio into a much stronger position,” and called the deal “a major coup.”
While ZeniMax Media itself may not mean much to many gamers, its stable of studios and games is fairly robust and covers a number genres. Included in the deal are the Elder Scrolls Games, Fallout, Doom, Wolfenstein, Dishonored, Prey, and Quake, as well as the technology developed to build these games.
From some of the leading Western RPGs to decorated FPSes, this deal places Microsoft in real contention for the best first-party titles just in time for the next-generation console releases.
A GAME THEY COULDN’T PASS
Microsoft’s subscription gaming product Game Pass already boasts 200 games across its two-tiered pricing model with its standard 9.99 USD per month offering and a premium 15.99 USD per month subscription offering extra bells and whistles. Game Pass appears to be surpassing EA Play as the premier game subscription, particularly since EA is now offering Play as a part of Game Pass.
With next-gen consoles launching in November, Xbox is beginning to set up a highly competitive offering for its platform just as Sony’s PlayStation finished announcing its exclusives over the last few weeks. Bloomberg entertainment writer Jason Schreier tweeted that “future Bethesda games will be on Xbox, PC, and ‘other consoles on a case by case basis.’“
Schreier also tweeted “The second-biggest news in Microsoft’s announcement today was the massive leap in Xbox Game Pass subscribers, from 10m in April to 15m today. Microsoft didn’t buy Zenimax to battle the PlayStation 5 — Microsoft bought Zenimax to quadruple that number.” That explosion in recurring revenue is staggering and creates a subscription platform with annual recurring revenue (ARR) of no less than 1.8 billion USD.
A FUTURE BRIGHT WITH STAR…FIELDS
Currently, it appears that most of Microsoft’s first-party studios have been allowed to follow their own paths as they’ve built new games. Obsidian Entertainment was able to release The Outer Worlds and is currently on Avowed, a first-person RPG set in Eora, their Pillars of Eternity Universe. Early talk about the game suggested it would be in direct competition with Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls. Now that they’re both under the same roof, is there room for them to coexist?
Time will tell what the future holds for fans of Bethesda and its varied titles, and no one can know Microsoft’s plans for sure. But it sure seems like the Xbox console and the Game Pass got a lot more competitive. It probably doesn’t hurt that Xbox preorders go live today.