Last Friday, Xbox’s acquisition of Bethesda’s studios was finalized, altering the course of the newest generation of console gaming. To the tune of 7.5 billion dollars, this marks the largest acquisition deal in the video game industry. This deal had been announced in September of last year, yet it is just now becoming official.
Playing Catch Up
For many, this can be viewed as a major shot in the arm for Xbox. During the last console generation, the Xbox One severely lagged behind the PS4. Not only could this be attributed to the rocky launch of the Xbox One, but the lack of console-defining exclusives also played into the console’s failings.
While Xbox has rebounded some with its successful Game Pass service and its popular stance on backwards compatibility, it still has much ground to cover in order to match PlayStation. Acquiring Bethesda’s studios could be the key to that.
The Future of Bethesda Exclusivity
In the deal, a team of award-winning developer studios including Bethesda Game Studios, id Software, Arkane Studios, Machine Games and Tango Gameworks are included.
Along with these developers, the deal also includes their respective franchises such as The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Dishonored, Doom and Wolfenstein. These highly successful franchises were previously multiplatform, but whether new entries will come to PlayStation seems unlikely.
In a roundtable hosted between Bethesda and Xbox, Phil Spencer, the head of Xbox, came out and clarified a bit about what the future of Xbox’s and Bethesda’s relationship would be.
“I'm going to try to be as clear as I can. So, obviously I can't sit here and say that every Bethesda game is exclusive. We know that's not true. There are contractual obligations that we're going to see through as we always do in every one of these instances,” Spencer said. “We have games that exist on other platforms and we're going to support those games on the platforms they're on. But if you're an Xbox customer the thing I want you to know now is this about delivering great exclusive games for you that ship on platforms where Game Pass exists. That's our goal, that's why we're doing this, that's the root of this partnership we're building.”
To break it down, it appears that, except for certain cases, future games from Bethesda and their other studios will come to where Game Pass is available, which is on Xbox and PC platforms. However, as the quote from Spencer points out, Xbox will honor games that had previous contractual obligations to appear on other platforms.
PlayStation and Bethesda
Last year, PlayStation unveiled two timed exclusives from the Bethesda Studios. This includes Ghostwire: Tokyo from Tango Gameworks and Deathloop from Arkane Studios. Both games would be exclusive to PlayStation 5 and PC for at least a year before they made their way to Xbox.
Another point in Spencer’s comments is that games that already exist on PlayStation will continue to receive support. This is most likely in reference to Fallout 76 and Elder Scrolls Online, two multiplayer games that are still receiving new content updates each year. It is safe to assume that the PlayStation version of these games will continue to receive support.
Spencer’s comment suggests that Bethesda will play a big role with Game Pass. For those unfamiliar, Xbox exclusive games developed by their first-party studios come day one to Game Pass, and if future Bethesda games are expected to be Xbox and PC exclusive, it is safe to assume that this will mean future Bethesda games will also appear on Game Pass on release.
However, this can be a bit difficult for PlayStation fans since they would be the ones excluded from future Bethesda titles that were previously multiplatform — besides the timed exclusives mentioned earlier. The only way that could possibly be bypassed is if PlayStation opted to host Game Pass on their console, which seems very unlikely from either party.
It is possible though that it might also be up to Bethesda’s decision to decide which games will come to multiplatform or not on a case-by-case basis. On the same day, Pete Hines, the Senior Vice President of Global Marketing and Communications for Bethesda Softworks, put this statement out on how Bethesda and its studios would still operate with a level of independence.
“As we’ve all shared, the expectation is that Bethesda Softworks and our studios will continue as we have in the past, just with more support and resources than we’ve ever had before,” Hines said. “Obviously, Game Pass has been an important initiative for Xbox, and we’ll be working on putting even more of our games into Game Pass than ever before. Beyond that? Stay tuned, we’re just getting started together.”
As Hines has stated, Game Pass would play a big role in the future of Bethesda games, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Bethesda also can’t decide which of their titles will be multiplatform or not.
Overall, there is still some uncertainty regarding what the future of Bethesda titles will play for this new console generation. It appears that the relationship between Bethesda and Xbox has secured a future of Bethesda titles as Xbox exclusives, but there is a possibility that at least some of their titles will still make their way to PlayStation.
One thing is for sure though: the landscape of console gaming has been dramatically changed.