Game changer: Microsoft buys Elder Scrolls company ZeniMax for $7.5bn

Microsoft is acquiring ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Bethesda Softworks, publisher of the best-selling video game franchises The Elder Scrolls, Fallout and Doom. The $7.5bn deal (GBP5.85m) will see all future releases from Bethesda’s studios included on the Xbox Game Pass subscription service.

Xbox chief Phil Spencer said: “Like us, Bethesda are passionate believers in building a diverse array of creative experiences, in exploring new game franchises, and in telling stories in bold ways. All of their great work will continue and grow, and we look forward to empowering them with the resources and support of Microsoft to scale their creative visions to more players in new ways for you.”

The move could significantly affect the industry. Bethesda’s major franchises are some of the best-selling games in the global market: The Elder Scrolls titles have sold at least 60m units, with the Fallout series on around 35m sales. The titles have been released on a variety of platforms, and Microsoft did not immediately confirm whether future titles will be exclusive to Xbox and PC.

Todd Howard, executive producer at Bethesda Studios said: “This [partnership] is about more than one system or one screen. 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 the screen size, the controller, or your ability to even use one.”

Bloomberg later quoted Phil Spencer as saying, future Bethesda games will be on Xbox, PC, and “other consoles on a case by case basis.”

Even if Bethesda titles appear on the PlayStation 5 console, the availability of the games on the Xbox Games Pass programme, which provides unlimited access to all titles at a monthly subscription, will be enticing to fans.

With both the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 consoles releasing this November, and pre-orders of Microsoft’s next console generation beginning on Tuesday, the Bethesda purchase seems to be timed for maximum marketing impact.

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