Microsoft, it seems, wants to be the Disney of the video game world. While they’re still creating their own content and IPs, the minds at Microsoft would apparently rather buy up existing franchises and developers. Yesterday, Microsoft bought out ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Bethesda for $7.5 billion dollars. (Which, for those keeping track at home, is more than Disney paid for Lucasfilm, which gave them the rights to Star Wars.)
While this may not sound like a big deal to anyone not keeping track, let me make a couple things clear: Microsoft now straight up owns 23 different studios, and over 40 different franchises ranging from Halo and Doom to Fallout and Skyrim. That’s by no means a complete list or even a perfect count; 23 different studios is a lot, and some of those have satellite studios across a number of states or countries that were responsible for one game but not the franchise (I’m looking at you, Bethesda Game Studios Austin!)
But what does Microsoft’s purchase of ZeniMax mean besides all that? Well, as of right now, not much. Games like Dishonored and Prey will still be available to purchase and play on PlayStation and Steam, so there shouldn’t be any concern there when it comes to losing out on these games on other platforms.
Phil Spencer, Microsoft’s Executive VP of gaming, said in a recent interview that future ZeniMax games will release on PC and Xbox while taking a “case by case approach” with other consoles. While there’s no way of knowing exactly what that means, it’s safe to assume the next Elder Scrolls game could wind up being exclusive to PC and Xbox just like the Halo franchise.
As far as playing these games, look for them all to become available via the Xbox Game Pass. If you’re really only interested in playing through Dishonored 2 or Prey though, paying for those games individually is still probably your best bet. But if you’re looking at the now massive list of games there and can’t help but want to play them all, the subscription service would be the cheaper option at $10 USD a month for the PC or console exclusive access, or $15 USD a month for Ultimate, which comes with Xbox Live Gold as well as some other benefits.
As for the business side of things and the ever-present “console wars,” this seems like a brilliant move from Microsoft. So long as the next Elder Scrolls game doesn’t go the way of Fallout: 76, they’ll make the $7.5 billion back in no time at all. That aside, they’ve now scooped up a massive array of titles and franchises Sony and Nintendo had access to, and it’s clear they’re trying to send a message that while the other platforms have their exclusives, Microsoft has everything else.
Microsoft’s buyout of ZeniMax Media presents a huge shift in the modern games market, as they continue to increase the sheer size of what they offer. Sony seems content to focus on using their exclusive titles to draw customers, while Nintendo does…whatever it does to keep people buying and playing their games. While there’s no doubt that Microsoft is doubling down on the potency of their Game Pass subscription service, their buyout of ZeniMax begs the question of if we’ll see the “Netflix of Gaming” sooner than later.
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