Microsoft’s Xbox team significantly expanded its list of game development studios on Monday, announcing the purchase of ZeniMax Media for $7.5 billion USD in cash.
The entertainment company owns several industry-leading game developers, including Bethesda Softworks, the maker of the post-apocalyptic Fallout games and the fantasy series The Elder Scrolls. It also owns id Software, known for its Doom, Rage, and Wolfenstein shooting game franchises.
The move grows the number of in-house Xbox game development studios to 23, up from 15 earlier, giving it control of some of the game industry’s most popular franchises. Microsoft also plans to run Bethesda as its own division, with leadership and structure intact.
As Microsoft’s Phil Spencer explains in the announcement:
Bethesda’s games have always had a special place on Xbox and in the hearts of millions of gamers around the world. 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.
Just as they took the bold first steps to bring The Elder Scrolls franchise to the original Xbox, Bethesda were early supporters of Xbox Game Pass, bringing their games to new audiences across devices and have been actively investing in new gaming technology like cloud streaming of games. We will be adding Bethesda’s iconic franchises to Xbox Game Pass for console and PC. One of the things that has me most excited is seeing the roadmap with Bethesda’s future games, some announced and many unannounced, to Xbox console and PC including Starfield, the highly anticipated, new space epic currently in development by Bethesda Game Studios.
Spencer said the acquisition is a “landmark step” for Microsoft. Microsoft will add Bethesda’s games to Xbox Game Pass for console and PC, too. Microsoft also intends to add future Bethesda games to Xbox Game Pass “the same day they launch on Xbox or PC,” specifically calling out Bethesda Game Studios’ Starfield.
“One of the things that has me most excited is seeing the roadmap with Bethesda’s future games, some announced and many unannounced, to Xbox console and PC including Starfield, the highly anticipated, new space epic currently in development by Bethesda Game Studios,” Spencer wrote.
Pete Hines, senior vice president of global marketing and communications at Bethesda, posted a separate letter on the developer’s website, outlining why Microsoft is a good fit for the company. Hines said the company has a “long history of working with Microsoft,” and will continue to make games as it always has.
“But the key point is we’re still Bethesda,” Hines wrote. “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.”
Hines added that the Microsoft acquisition will allow Bethesda more resources “to innovate” and “to grow.”