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Microsoft buys ZeniMax Media and The Elder Scrolls dev Bethesda for $7.5 billion

Microsoft is moving to acquire Bethesda Softworks parent company ZeniMax Media for $7.5 billion in cash.Â

Chris Kerr, News Editor

September 21, 2020

3 Min Read

Microsoft is moving to acquire Bethesda Softworks parent company ZeniMax Media for $7.5 billion in cash. 

It's a huge statement of intent from Microsoft, which will now be able to count The Elder Scrolls and Fallout developer Bethesda among its first-party studios. 

The company has been working on bolstering its first-party ranks for some time, and has bought a number of big names over the past few years including Double Fine, Obsidian, Ninja Theory and more in a bid to create more exclusive franchises to challenge Sony and Nintendo moving into the next-generation and beyond.

Its latest acquisition will include all of ZeniMax's publishing offices and development studios, including Bethesda Softworks, Bethesda Game Studios, id Software, ZeniMax Online Studios, Arkane, MachineGames, Tango Gameworks, Alpha Dog, and Roundhouse Studios. 

Bethesda franchises including The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, DOOM, Quake, WolfensteinDishonored and more will also be included in the deal. The company's current structure and leadership team will remain intact.

Microsoft has revealed that all of Bethesda's franchises will also be added to Xbox Game Pass for console and PC, making the subscription service a more tantalizing proposition as we head into the next console generation. 

"With the addition of Bethesda, Microsoft will grow from 15 to 23 creative studio teams and will be adding Bethesda’s iconic franchises to Xbox Game Pass," reads a press release. "This includes Microsoft’s intent to bring Bethesda’s future games into Xbox Game Pass the same day they launch on Xbox or PC, like Starfield, the highly anticipated, new space epic currently in development by Bethesda Game Studios."

ZeniMax chairman and CEO Robert Altman said the deal is a "natural progression" of its long running partnership with Microsoft. "This is a thrilling day for this company, our employees, and our fans. We have enjoyed a close partnership with Microsoft for decades, and this deal is a natural progression of those years working together," he commented.

"The big winners today are our fans. We are continuing to develop our slate of AAA games, but now with Microsoft's scale and entire Game Stack, our games can only get better."

Bethesda Game Studios director and executive producer, Todd Howard, shared those sentiments. Howard, who'll be staying at the studio in his current role, explained how the company's partnership with Microsoft has blossomed over time, and said the two firms share a "deep belief in the fundamental power of games." 

"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," he commented, in a statement posted on the Bethesda website.

"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 VI. Like our original partnership, this one 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."

It's currently unclear how the deal, which is expected to close in the second half of the 2021 fiscal year, will affect the multi-platform future of Microsoft's new franchises, with the Xbox maker yet to comment on potential platform exclusivity. 

About the Author(s)

Chris Kerr

News Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Game Developer news editor Chris Kerr is an award-winning journalist and reporter with over a decade of experience in the game industry. His byline has appeared in notable print and digital publications including Edge, Stuff, Wireframe, International Business Times, and PocketGamer.biz. Throughout his career, Chris has covered major industry events including GDC, PAX Australia, Gamescom, Paris Games Week, and Develop Brighton. He has featured on the judging panel at The Develop Star Awards on multiple occasions and appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live to discuss breaking news.

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