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In an absolutely massive move, Microsoft just announced that it's entered into an agreement to acquire ZeniMax Media, parent company of Bethesda Softworks for an eye-watering $7.5 billion. This means that Bethesda, the publisher and developer behind juggernaut titles such as The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Wolfenstein, DOOM, and Quake, are now part of the Xbox family.
Microsoft announced the news in a blog post, confirming that it has picked up all of the various studios that work under the Bethesda umbrella as part of the deal. This includes Bethesda Softworks, Bethesda Game Studios, id Software, ZeniMax Online Studios, Arkane, MachineGames, Tango Gameworks, Alpha Dog, and Roundhouse Studios. Yeah, I'm still trying to get my head around this too.
"Bethesda's games have always had a special place on Xbox and in the hearts of millions of gamers around the world," Xbox boss Phil Spencer wrote. "Our teams have a close and storied history working together, from the amazing first DOOM, and its id Tech engine, innovating games on PCs to Bethesda bringing their first console game to the original Xbox, the groundbreaking The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind.
"Over the years I've had many deep conversations with the creative leaders at Bethesda on the future of gaming and we've long shared similar visions for the opportunities for creators and their games to reach more players in more ways."
According to Bloomberg journalist Jason Schreier, Microsoft paid roughly three times more than they paid to acquire Mojang in 2014. The company paid $2.5 billion for the Minecraft creator, so yeah... this is a big deal. Schreier also notes that Obsidian and Bethesda are now sister studios, which finally puts Fallout New Vegas 2 on the table in an excitingly tangible way.
It's not immediately clear what this means for games like The Elder Scrolls VI and Starfield in regards to platform exclusivity, nor are we certain what the future will hold for franchises like DOOM and Fallout. Given Microsoft's apparent willingness to step away from console exclusives as part of its approach to next-gen, it could be that any Bethesda-developed titles are timed exclusives, rather than permanent ones. We'll have to wait for more information in this area, though.
"Like our original partnership, this one is about more than one system or one screen," Bethesda's Todd Howard said in a statement. "We share a deep belief in the fundamental power of games, in their ability to connect, empower, and bring joy. And a belief we should bring that to everyone - regardless of who you are, where you live, or what you play on. Regardless of the screen size, the controller, or your ability to even use one.
"We can't think of a better group of people to do that with than those at Xbox. We have friendships that go back to those original days. From Phil to his senior leaders to developer support, they don't just talk about putting players first, they passionately live it."
With one day to go before Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S pre-orders go live, this was one hell of an announcement from Microsoft.
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