The sale of Bethesda and other game studios is confirmed after final approval by EU regulatory bodies
Xbox Game Studios has now officially bolstered its umbrella of studios with the ZeniMax Media, bringing Bethesda Game Studios, id Software, ZeniMax Online Studios, Arkane, MachineGames, Tango Gameworks, Alpha Dog, and Roundhouse Studios into the fold.
Until now, Xbox representatives have chosen their words very carefully when discussing their plans for the game studios. Now that the sale is finalised, we should begin to see more news coming out about Microsoft’s plans for future releases.
Forums are awash with discussions surrounding possible exclusivity options for future releases. Games currently announced as multi-platform will remain that way, and games such as Deathloop with timed PS5 exclusivity will have these arrangements honoured. Where the waters become muddied is when we look at games known to be in development but without official release details yet.
Given the negativity surrounding Xbox’s perceived lack of console exclusives during the Xbox One era, it would seem an obvious assumption that they would simply make all of their studios’ output exclusive, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
As we know, all Xbox Game Studios titles will be coming to Game Pass on day one. With such a wide variety of popular titles now under the XGS umbrella, that makes Game Pass a hugely attractive proposition, and it’s certain to bring a few PlayStation gamers across to Team Green. That still leaves tens of millions of gamers who will remain loyal to the Sony machine, though, and by opening up Xbox studios games to the rival platform they stand to make a large amount of money (which is essential, when you’ve just spent $7.5 billion on studio acquisitions), while still making the Xbox console a more attractive, value-led proposition.
Will any games become Xbox console exclusives?
The short answer is yes:
“…gamers should know that Xbox consoles, PC, and Game Pass will be the best place to experience new Bethesda games, including some new titles in the future that will be exclusive to Xbox and PC players.” – Phil Spencer
The truth is, we don’t know yet which games will become Xbox exclusives. There’s been a lot of speculation over which titles will be restricted to the Xbox platform, with new IP Starfield regularly popping up as an expected exclusive, which would make a lot of sense. There’s also the possibility some of the games may receive timed-exclusivity, but hopefully not to the extent of some of Sony’s deals that lock rival platforms out of games and content for up to a year.
To add to the speculation, I can’t see Microsoft taking existing franchises with huge fanbases across all platforms and just taking away millions of players. It’s a proven business concept that it is easier to retain current customers than it is to gain new ones. Games like The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Wolfenstein and Doom could, and in my opinion, should, remain as multi-platform titles. Not only will this prevent any ill-will towards Xbox, but it will also generate huge amounts of revenue. What they need to be doing is curating new, must-have exclusive IPs (with Starfield being a prime candidate).
Returning again to Game Pass, purchasing ZeniMax also allows Xbox to add games from their extensive back-catalogue to the Game Pass line up. It’s already proving to be the industry leading gaming subscription service, so adding legacy titles from all of the ZeniMax studios alongside all of their major first-party output will make Game Pass an even more essential purchase.
Microsoft’s approach means they don’t actually need exclusives to be successful. The appeal of Xbox now lies in its value, with the potentially huge savings that can be made over the lifespan of the console. With games already targeting a £70/$70 price point, it would only take two great first-party games per year to justify the cost of Game Pass. With over twenty studios producing content, we can expect far more than that (Xbox representatives have previously stated they want to be adding a new first-party title every month once the studios are all established).
We are very interested to see how this pans out in the months and years to come, but at the moment it looks like Xbox console and PC gamers will be getting tremendous value, while PlayStation gamers will still get to play most of the franchises they’ve grown up with.
That sounds like a win-win to me!