After months of official announcements and global fanfare, the Microsoft acquisition of ZeniMax Studios is finally ratified. The studio, which incorporates acclaimed developer Bethesda Studios, needed formal approval for the $7.5 billion deal. The EU, in keeping with its corporate legislation and market regulations, verified the transaction, and officially approved it. Now, with ZeniMax Studios under its belt, the global tech leader has a formidable array of exclusives at its disposal.
The deal itself was struck in writing late last year, in September, to widespread surprise. The move came off as unexpected, as Bethesda’s franchises (Fallout, The Elder Scrolls, Doom, to name a few) continue to make millions. So it wasn’t as if Bethesda’s parent company, ZeniMax, faced bankruptcy. What’s more, as the latest entry was Doom Eternal in 2020, the developer enjoys massive hype for its upcoming releases. From the confirmed (but not nearly complete) Elder Scrolls VI, to the upcoming new sci-fi IP Starfield, excitement abounds.
The deal makes gaming history, with Microsoft gaining ownership over one of the most successful game developers of all time
The thing is, Bethesda’s acquisition (or merger, in a sense) is unlike most other studios that joined Microsoft. When the company acquired Obsidian Studios, of Fallout: New Vegas and The Outer Worlds fame, it made ripples. Sure, the developer had some massive hits prior to the deal, but it stood to gain a lot from Microsoft’s vast resources, too. The only other fair comparison, acquiring the Minecraft developer, Mojang, is due to the game’s sheer popularity.
However, Bethesda is another titan in its own right. Massively successful titles in recent years, including 2011’s Skyrim and 2015’s Fallout 4, bear testament to the developer’s relevance. In fact, every passing year brings the entire gaming community, across PC, PlayStation and Xbox, more and more hope of an Elder Scrolls VI announcement. Even just a stark, lackluster teaser two years ago was enough to send fans of the franchise into frenzy. Aside from Rockstar Games (of Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption fame), and few others, no single studio is this in demand.
All that was missing was official formalities. After all, under the vigilant regulations of the EU’s trade laws, any transaction that infringed upon its principles could face reversal. This could include some sort of compromising the local economies or market share. Luckily, the EU found the deal perfectly acceptable and did not impose any fine conditions on the sale. With that in place, Microsoft is free to control the future of all Bethesda games.
Thankfully, the company so far remains open to honoring ZeniMax’s previous engagements, without blanket exclusivity
If Microsoft wanted, it could ensure that all upcoming games became Xbox and PC exclusives. Certainly, this would give them an advantage over the rival Sony, as even the upcoming titles Ghostwire: Tokyo and Deathloop have been slated for PS4/PS5 exclusivity. Instead, they will seemingly take a more generous approach, as Xbox Head Phil Spencer stated recently. According to him, they will employ a “case by case” decision to decide what platforms each Bethesda game would go to. And, fortunately, every upcoming Bethesda title available on PC or Xbox would come straight to Game Pass subscriptions on Day One.
So while Microsoft could easily renege on their commitments (nothing is legally binding here, or officially confirmed), they probably won’t. That means that great upcoming games from Bethesda could still hit the PS5 if allowed. Just remember that, with so many amazing Bethesda titles under its wings, Game Pass is becoming a seriously tantalizing service.
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