In an announcement no one really expected (ever), Microsoft has acquired ZeniMax Media which includes Bethesda Softworks and all of its companies. This throws a huge wrench into the upcoming next-gen console war especially with Bethesda-published titles like Deathloop and GhostWire: Tokyo being timed exclusive to PS5. But according to Todd Howard, known for series like The Elder Scrolls and Fallout, the trajectory of both companies has gone “hand in hand” in many ways throughout the years.
“From our beginning, we had primarily been a PC developer. In 1999, two things happened. One, Bethesda became part of a brand-new startup – ZeniMax Media. And Microsoft started development of their first video game console – The Xbox. I can remember my first trip to Redmond to discuss the new system and bringing our next game, Morrowind, to the Xbox.”
Howard had his doubts about the game running on the console but “Microsoft and their new Xbox crew had a view, that I came to share completely. Shouldn’t we allow anyone to have this experience? Why does it matter where the screen is or what the controller is? There are many people without the same access, and we can bring it to them. Morrowind would go on to become one of the best-selling Xbox games of all time, behind Halo, another PC style game some said wouldn’t work. Its success paved the way for the growth of our company, and proved the point – people wanted this experience, regardless of device.”
From there, the two companies collaborated on a number of projects from Oblivion coming to Xbox 360 to mods coming to consoles in Fallout 4. “With each new console cycle, we evolved together. From bringing mods to consoles with Fallout 4, now over a billion downloads, to the latest technologies fueling Xbox Series X/S. These new systems are optimized for the vast worlds we love to create, with generational leaps not just in graphics, but CPU and data streaming as well. It’s led to our largest engine overhaul since Oblivion, with all new technologies powering our first new IP in 25 years, Starfield, as well as The Elder Scrolls 6.”
Howard also believes that this deal is “about more than one system or one screen. We share a deep belief in the fundamental power of games, in their ability to connect, empower, and bring joy. And a belief we should bring that to everyone – regardless of who you are, where you live, or what you play on. Regardless of the screen size, the controller, or your ability to even use one.
“We can’t think of a better group of people to do that with than those at Xbox. We have friendships that go back to those original days. From Phil to his senior leaders to developer support, they don’t just talk about putting players first, they passionately live it.”
Of course, the ramifications of Microsoft now owning Bethesda is that numerous titles like Starfield and The Elder Scrolls 6 could be available on Xbox Game Pass at launch. However, it also means that the various companies under ZeniMax Media can benefit from the technical know-how and knowledge on next-gen that Microsoft can provide. Furthermore, it allows them to leverage more resources – like inXile’s Wasteland 3 which got fully voice-acted dialogue thanks to Microsoft’s involvement.
We’ll have to wait and see where things lead so stay tuned for more details. At the very least, Bethesda’s Pete Hines says the company will continue to publish its own games.