Microsoft just announced that it is acquiring ZeniMax Media, the parent company behind Bethesda and ultimately the owner of some of the most popular game series in the world: Elder Scrolls, Fallout, and Doom franchises among many others. It represents a massive expansion of Microsoft's slate of popular games as the company makes its subscription-based Game Pass service a focal point of its campaign for the upcoming Xbox launch.
Game Pass is front and center of the blog post that Microsoft Head of Xbox Phil Spencer wrote announcing the acquisition: "…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."
As many people have been quick to note, this move potentially reunites Obsidian Entertainment, the RPG studio that was founded by a number of ex-Interplay developers and acquired by Microsoft two years ago, with the Fallout series.
The move doesn't just stop at Fallout and Elder Scrolls however. Acquiring ZeniMax also puts Doom and Quake developer Id under the Microsoft banner, alongside Wolfenstein developer Machine Games and Dishonored developer Arkane. It's unclear what this acquisition could mean for the future of those developers or their franchises, but fans of the many cult-hits that Bethesda published over the recent years might at least hope that those series could get a new lease on life with Microsoft resources behind them.
At the very least, however, it's a major acquisition that adds a great deal of brute-force strength to Microsoft's value proposition as a new console generation arrives.
The marketing from Sony and Microsoft in the lead up to the launch of the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X has been missing one vital piece. We know what the consoles will cost, what's in the box, and the various subscription services that each offer, but neither company has put forward a "killer app" that will urge people to buy a new machine. Today, Microsoft didn't produce a definitive answer, but an eye-catching promise.