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Yesterday afternoon, Microsoft dropped the industry-shaking revelation that it had purchased Bethesda parent company ZeniMax, taking control of a number of iconic IPs and studios in the process. The Elder Scrolls, DOOM, Quake, Fallout, Dishonored, and so many more are now at Microsoft's fingertips thanks to a deal that reportedly cost the tech giant an eye-watering $7.5 billion.
But what an investment. Now that Microsoft owns these franchises, it has every right to make them exclusive to Xbox consoles. We already know that previously announced titles like Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo will honour their timed exclusivity agreements with PlayStation 5, but beyond that? What about Starfield? The next Fallout? Elder Scrolls VI?
The good news is that there's still hope for these franchises on PS5. In a recent interview with Bloomberg, Xbox boss Phil Spencer confirmed that Microsoft will be bringing Starfield to Xbox, PC, and Game Pass. He added that they'll be taking other consoles on a "case-by-case basis". Given that the Nintendo Switch probably isn't running Starfield any time soon, we can assume Spencer was specifically talking about the PS5 here.
While not a direct confirmation that Microsoft intends to keep Bethesda games multiplatform, it's a fairly encouraging sign at this very early stage of a deal with implications that most of us still haven't fully wrapped our heads around.
Bethesda's VP of PR and marketing Pete Hines also implied in a statement that the company will likely carry on as usual. "But the key point is we're still Bethesda," he explained. "We're still working on the same games we were yesterday, made by the same studios we've worked with for years, and those games will be published by us."
If Bethesda Softworks is still publishing these games, then there's every chance Microsoft will want to see those titles released on as many platforms as possible to keep the profits rolling on. We also know that all new Bethesda games will be available on Xbox Game Pass as soon as they're released, which makes Xbox platforms the place to get these titles, while also allowing them to appear on other platforms.
Finally, you only really need to look at Microsoft's approach over the last couple of years to see that this is a company that's aiming to put consumers first wherever possible. They were first to fully embrace cross-platform play, they've put a ton of previously Xbox exclusive games on Switch, and the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S have been designed to play every generation of Xbox game from day one.
Back in July, Spencer said that exclusives are completely counter to what gaming is about. "As a player, you are the centre of our strategy," Spencer explained. "Our device is not the centre of our strategy, our game is not the centre of the strategy. We want to enable you to play the games you want to play, with the friends you want to play with, on any device."
While it's true that things can change quickly in this industry and developers and publishers can renege on pledges and promises, we've seen very little evidence of this from Microsoft over the past two years or so. This is a company who hasn't just talked the talk, but walked the walk. When Phil Spencer says they're not into exclusives, I'm inclined to believe him.
Then again, this was before they had complete control of Fallout and The Elder Scrolls, so... I guess let's wait and see.
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