“Today is a special day,” begins the most seismic announcement Phil Spencer has ever made. It certainly is.
Xbox has announced overnight that it will acquire ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Bethesda Softworks. The deal, worth USD $7.5 billion, makes every studio under Bethesda’s umbrella and all of the IP they produce, from The Elder Scrolls to Wolfenstein, part of Xbox Game Studios.
It is the single largest acquisition Xbox has ever made. It exceeds the previous record of USD $2.5 billion spent to acquire Mojang Studios, creators of Minecraft.
Over the course of the Xbox One’s lifecycle, the biggest complaint from fans and industry observers alike was its dearth of exclusive titles. One of the biggest draws of its closest competitor, the PlayStation 4, was the firehose of high-quality exclusives from its roster of prestigious first-party studios. While Xbox still had a few heavy hitters up its sleeve in Halo and Gears of War, and introduced new IP like Rare’s excellent Sea of Thieves, it simply couldn’t compete. So, Xbox embarked on an acquisition crusade. It started small, bringing independent studios like Compulsion Games and InXile Entertainment into the fold, before aiming for larger AA studios like Double Fine, Ninja Theory, and Obsidian Entertainment.
A brief history
Bethesda Softworks was founded in 1986. It became a subsidiary of ZeniMax Media in 1999. The company took its name from Bethesda, Maryland, an unincorporated community north of Washington D.C. Finding the name “Softworks” already taken, company founder Christopher Weaver simply added “Bethesda” as a prefix. Bethesda’s Gridiron! is considered the first physics-based sports simulation in video games. It is most well-known for The Elder Scrolls, a series of high fantasy role-playing games that debuted in 1994.
Bethesda spun its development efforts off into Bethesda Game Studios in 2001, leaving Bethesda Softworks to focus entirely on publishing. It acquired the popular Fallout franchise of RPG’s in 2007 as its original owner, Interplay, was dissolved. Bethesda had become a force in global video games publishing, with numerous prestigious studios and games to its name, as well as a yearly showcase at E3 in Los Angeles and its own self-contained convention QuakeCon in Dallas, Texas. Bethesda is a regular and popular guest at conventions like PAX and Gamescom.
The Zenimax deal will see Bethesda’s wide catalogue of games become a permanent fixture on Xbox Game Pass. Currently in development titles like Bethesda Game Studios’ sci-fi RPG Starfield now become exclusive to Xbox and Windows PC.
The announcement comes less than 12 hours before the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S consoles open for preorders.