Microsoft acquires Bethesda Softworks in $7.5B deal

Microsoft has acquired ZeniMax Media and publisher Bethesda Softworks, the company announced Monday. Phil Spencer, head of Xbox, published a letter on Xbox Wire, welcoming the The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Wolfenstein, Doom, Dishonored, and Quake franchises, as well as Starfield and more, to Microsoft.

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. In a news release, Microsoft said it now has 23 “creative studio teams” — up from 15 — making games for Xbox and PC. 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.”

Microsoft’s acquisition of ZeniMax Media and Bethesda Softworks unites the Fallout publisher and Fallout: New Vegas developer Obsidian Entertainment under the same company. Also of interest: Bethesda has two games slated as timed exclusives for Microsoft’s competitor, Sony. Published by Bethesda, Arkane Studios’ Deathloop and Tango Gameworks’ GhostWire: Tokyo are expected to be timed exclusives when they’re released on PlayStation 5 next year. Polygon has reached out to Microsoft for clarification.

Microsoft’s next-gen consoles, the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, will be released on Nov. 10. Pre-orders for the new Xbox consoles open Tuesday, Sept. 22.

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