It seems like just yesterday when the big entertainment news was Disney buying Fox, and with it came a bunch of different business adventures. While many fans were clamoring about X-Men returning to the MCU, we dove deep and found the purchase was much bigger….like the fact Disney had almost full control of Hulu. Something similar is now happening with Microsoft purchasing Bethesda, so let’s look into 5 reason why this is a big deal.
If you haven’t already, check out Caleb’s opinion on Microsoft buying Bethesda.
Obviously the biggest concern, especially those of us that play on PlayStation, is what this means for exclusive. Aka will Microsoft make all of Bethesda games exclusive. There isn’t a definitive yes or no answer here, but all hints point towards current franchises remaining 3rd party.
There are two major reasons for this. The first, if the plan was to make everything exclusive, why wouldn’t Microsoft be blunt about it? With a new console releasing soon it would seem advertising that games such as the Elder Scrolls becoming exclusive would be a grand idea. Instead we are getting responses like “case by case” or “currently announced games will remain on other consoles.” We had a similar situation when Microsoft became owner of Minecraft. They didn’t say anything would be exclusive, just that Minecraft would see optimization on Microsoft products before other consoles. It’s clear Microsoft has a plan to be annoying with some type of exclusivity in terms of early releases, Gamepass, and maybe DLC, but that’s about as far as I say itll go. As a fan of Bethesda games it’s pretty much expected though, they’ve always favored Xbox. Doom 3 and the first two Elder Scrolls were exclusive to Xbox for example.
The second reason is Bethesda needs to remain profitable to retain their current structure. When Microsoft bought Bethesda you know very well they looked at finances. You can either dismantle the ecosystem Bethesda created and find other ways to be profitable, or utilize the 3rd party aspect to keep revenue flowing. Bethesda has been trying to increase their value for some time which is why we saw so many rereleases, and Elder Scrolls online. Cutting out 2/3s of your customer doesn’t seem logical when the business structure is align in this way. Along with that, having games elsewhere is good advertising for Xbox. At that point you could say these games are “Free” on Xbox Game Pass, or offer some type of bonus content / exclusive DLC on Xbox. Bethesda still needs to operate as Bethesda, and making them entirely exclusive would cut so much revenue from them and I don’t think Microsoft wants to do that. If they do then I assume Bethesda or Microsoft will start announcing layoffs because that is a lot of trimming that needs to be done.
Heading back into relating this to Minecraft. The biggest reason Minecraft saw major updates on PS4 was to continue the micro transactions that were recently added to the game. Under the previous edition, these micro transactions were not possible as the store wasn’t compatible and PS4 wasn’t allowed to have open servers. Quite frankly it was the better place to play. Bethesda will fall into a similar boat where Microsoft will want to see a stream of revenue, and potentially keep those streams alive in all available outlets, including Elder Scrolls Online. By making these games compatible with PlayStation they will have a larger userbase that is spending money, which will allow adventures such as free titles on Xbox GamePass to be profitable.
Not Just Exclusives, but Better Games
As I mentioned above, Bethesda was basically trying to look more profitable and increase profits to increase their value. This is why Elder Scrolls online was so important, it’s why easily porting Skyrim to everything was so profitable. This is also why we were not seeing many new games out of Bethesda as of late too. A lot of their games were known IPs, nothing really new, nothing really far fetching. What adventured out of this bubble didn’t feel too successful, and by that I mean Rage. They utilized old engines and didn’t spend a lot of money producing new games.
With Microsoft in the seat this is going to change because they don’t need to look profitable with short gains anymore and just need to meet standards. The importance now would be to make Xbox look good, and Bethesda itself look good, so people want the games on gamepass or Xbox. If we keep the 3rd party element for revenue, as mentioned above, that gives Bethesda a lot of headway to develop new and exciting games for Xbox itself. New Vegas doesn’t seem like a stretch anymore, and games like Fallout 76 are not needed.
Probably the most important aspect of this deal is that it puts Microsoft on even playing ground as Sony. I’m not talking about games, but something more. Sony has an entire ecosystem of developers under their belt which help create engines, share resources, and work together to make great games. Sucker Punch works with Naughty Dog, etc…. Guerilla Games created the engine that Kojima Productions utilized for Death Stranding (and potentially future games). It’s a great ecosystem that allows great games to be created from multiple different studios.
With Bethesda comes a lot of great talent that we can assume is under contract and part of the deal. One of those people is Todd Howard which has this vision to create a huge library of titles. We are talking about a man that literally hyped up Fallot 76 and got people to buy into it, and let’s be real that took some effort. Now he has a budget and a team behind him to bring this vision to life. Microsoft also brought in 8 studios such as Machine Games which made arguably the best shooter this generation with Wolfenstein, ID Software which is known for Doom and has created multiple engines, and even Tango Gameworks which has the legendary Resident Evil director creating The Evil Within and also provides a quick route to Japanese styled titles. In short Microsoft just boosted their own ecosystem in terms of creating engines and new games, and can quickly get this talent elsewhere to help with future projects. There was even a hint from John Carmack stating that he would look to return to Bethesda now that Microsoft owns them, which would be godly for Microsoft in both the engine creation environment along with future hardware.
Similar to when Disney bought Fox, it was all about adding content to services. Xbox GamePass is now hard to pass up when you add an entire library of games from Bethesda. How this intertwines with games like Fallout 76 or Elder Scrolls Online is what will be truly interesting, but overall knowing that anything Bethesda releases will be at your fingertips for free is a huge win. Also on the plus side is the fact this library will always remain there. With 3rd party titles on GamePass there is always the risk of them being removed month-to-month, with Bethesda secured we don’t need to worry about that at all. As I’ve suggested multiple times now, it may even be good for Microsoft to keep 3rd party titles just so they can nudge other users with “why are you paying 70 dollars when you can come play it for free?” I can guarantee you “Free on Xbox Gamepass” will be slapped all over future commercials.
Microsoft Is Finally Serious About Gaming
It seems Xbox has always been some shoved off to the side brand of Microsoft. They didn’t take things seriously for a while, and Xbox One suffered greatly because Microsoft was putting the idea of the system being an “entertainment hub” ahead of gaming. This led to a lackluster line up of exclusive, and honestly a really big reboot to the Xbox brand with Series X/S. Clearly MS ate the losses with Xbox One and held back some to push everything out for Series S/X, which is where we are now.
With MS buying Bethesda it means they are serious about this adventure that will potentially make gaming and Xbox a central focus of future Microsoft adventures. It’s becoming a core product for them and Xbox GamePass may be the whole reason for it. Games “as a service” caught the eye of many big wigs across many companies, this is why we have Amazon, Google, and even Apple tipping their toes in the industries. It makes money, and by having Xbox and Windows remain a central hub for it all will create a very similar business dynamic as Windows for businesses around the world.
More importantly, now that the beast has been woken up, it means Sony also needs to stop feeling comfortable in their shoes. Yes they dominated last generation, but Microsoft wasn’t even playing the game in the end. Sony had a similar situation with the PS3 where they absolutely dominated during the PS2 generation and fell asleep at the wheel. Something similar seems to be happening now with PS5 where Sony is somewhat taking things for granted and not pushing too many new boundaries. If they both step their game up then this could be one of the most exciting generations to date. (That is if they stop buying studios and focus on themselves).
Overall Microsoft is clearly big news for the entire industry and there are many paths Microsoft can take moving forward. Yes there will be exclusives, but to what extent? More importantly is how will Microsoft utilize all the new assets to further themselves within gaming? Buying Bethesda was a lot more than Microsoft touting some new exclusive titles.