Microsoft has announced that it plans to acquire ZeniMax Media. You might not be familiar with the name but Micorosoft is going to splash $7.5 billion on this company which is the parent of Bethesda Softworks - one of the largest, privately held game developers and publishers in the world (it has 2,300 employees worldwide). The deal brings the talent behind titles such as Doom, The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, and Wolfenstein under Microsoft's wing and the ticket price is about 3x what Microsoft spent on acquiring Mojang (Minecraft).
This acquisition alone will boost Microsoft Studios creative teams from 15 to 23 entities (the studios added to Microsoft's stables include; id Software, Arkane, Machine Games and Alpha Dog). This significant uplift in manpower will create a compelling lineup of first party titles for the next gen Xbox consoles going forward. Significantly, Microsoft intends to bring all Bethesda's future games into Xbox Game Pass availability on their launch dates on Xbox and PC. In a blog post about the deal, Microsoft's Head of Xbox Phil Spencer, noted that "Bethesda were early supporters of Xbox Game Pass," so are a good match.
What will be particularly interesting is how Bethesda's relationship with Sony changes, if at all, going forward. Bloomberg notes that Bethesda recently agreed to debut Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo, on Sony’s new PlayStation 5, rather than Xbox Series consoles, as timed exclusives. Many industry commentators seem to think that Sony has done better on the exclusives front with the next gen soon to launch consoles. However, it is but one front in a wide range of battles yet to come to see which console brand dominates this time around.
Bethesda was founded by Christopher Weaver in 1986 and released its first big hit, role-playing title The Elder Scrolls, in 1994. In 1999 Weaver formed ZeniMax with Robert Altman which went on over the next decade to become parent company for the likes of id Software.
The acquisition is a "landmark step" in Microsoft's plans to deliver a breadth of amazing games to discover and play on Xbox, said Phil Spencer, who signed off his post by welcoming Bethesda Studios to Team Xbox.