Microsoft acquired Bethesda after hearing that Starfield was going to be PlayStation exclusive

Microsoft acquired Bethesda after hearing that Starfield was going to be PlayStation exclusive

PlayStation planned to make Bethesda’s games PlayStation exclusive, and Microsoft acted to stop that

In recent years, one of Sony’s favoured tactics has been to pay game developers to effectively skip over Xbox, making them launch their games as timed or permanent PlayStation exclusives. We have seen this with most recent Final Fantasy games from Square Enix, and we have also seen it with both Deathloop and Ghostwire Tokyo. 

In their court case against the FTC, Microsoft’s Phil Spencer has confirmed that part of the reason why Microsoft acquired Zenimax/Bethesda was due to the fact that Starfield could “end up skipping Xbox”, something that could drastically impact Microsoft’s position within the console market. 

With both Deathloop and Ghostwire Tokyo launching exclusively on PlayStation consoles (and PC), it makes sense that Microsoft would be concerned about whether or not future Bethesda games would come to Xbox.  

     When we acquired ZeniMax one of the impetus for that is that Sony had done a deal for Deathloop and Ghostwire… to pay Bethesda to not ship those games on Xbox,

So the discussion about Starfield when we heard that Starfield was potentially also going to end up skipping Xbox, we can’t be in a position as a third-place console where we fall further behind on our content ownership so we’ve had to secure content to remain viable in the business.

Microsoft spent $7.5 billion to acquire Zenimax Media, the parent company that owns Bethesda Softworks. Since then, Starfield has been revealed as an Xbox exclusive title on consoles, and Redfall has been launched exclusively on Xbox and PC.

Phil Spencer has painted Sony as an aggressive competitor within the console market, a competitor who prevents games from launching on Microsoft’s Xbox platform. With their acquisition, Microsoft were fighting fire with fire, and they needed content ownership in order to remain viable as a competitor.   

Microsoft acquired Bethesda after hearing that Starfield was going to be PlayStation exclusive

Microsoft sees their acquisition of Activision Blizzard as a way to combat Sony’s aggressive tactics, ensuring that Xbox retains access to Activision Blizzard’s game library and that they are large enough to compete with Sony. Currently, Xbox is far behind Sony in terms of market share globally, and Phil Spencer has stated that over the past 20 years, Microsoft has failed to compete effectively with Sony. 

In the eyes of Xbox, Microsoft’s acquisition of Zenimax/Bethesda was to prevent Sony from paying their way into becoming the exclusive platform of Bethesda games. Yes, both Deathloop and Ghostwire Tokyo eventually made their way to Xbox, but long after their launches on PlayStation.

Currently, Microsoft is battling with regulators to push through their $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard, a move that will keep a lot of future games on Xbox and dramatically improve Xbox’s competitiveness in the Sony dominated console gaming market. Whether or not regulators see things the same ways remains to be seen.

You can join the discussion on the reason behind Microsoft’s acquisition of Bethesda on the OC3D Forums.