In what can only be described as a seismic shift in the gaming industry, Microsoft announced the acquisition of ZeniMax Media on the eve of Xbox Series X pre-orders going live. That means everything developed and published by Bethesda is now a part of Xbox Game Studios. Yes, everything. That includes Fallout, The Elder Scrolls, DOOM, Starfield, Wolfenstein, The Evil Within, and many more franchises.
The $7.5 billion acquisition is not just an eye catcher for anyone who pays any attention to the gaming industry. It’s evidence that Microsoft is here to win in the next generation. With the most powerful console on the market and a newfound commitment to a deep, diverse library of first-party titles, Xbox is positioning itself for success in the next generation.
Games, You Say?
Even in the lead up to the launch of the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, the detractors of Microsoft’s console would consistently point to the perceived lack of first-party games available on the Xbox. Part of this was for good reason. Halo: Infinite was delayed this summer, meaning there was no significant AAA exclusive launching alongside the Xbox Series X. With a new Spider-Man expansion/game arriving at launch for the PS5 and other notable franchises on the way, PlayStation had games. Sony supporters pointed to games as the primary reason for buying a PlayStation 5 instead of an Xbox console.
Now, that argument looks a little bit different. It’s true that the Xbox brand is still lacking exclusives to play at launch. However, most gamers are making an investment in the promise of a generation rather than in what they can play on launch day. That was true in 2013, when Sony fans flocked to buy a console that had no notable impressive exclusives at launch. It is still true today.
The promise Xbox is making this time around is that playing on the Xbox Series X/S will no longer mean just playing shooters and racing games. Being an Xbox gamer now means access to many different games, large and small, from iconic franchises old and new. It means shooters, but it also means action games. It means racing games, but it also means RPGs. With this acquisition, it’s a perfectly reasonable argument to say Halo is no longer Xbox’s biggest franchise. That’s how big of a deal this is.
What Will the Xbox Games Library Look Like?
Xbox fans will still have plenty of shooters to play with the likes of Halo, Gears of War, and now Wolfenstein and DOOM on the platform. Forza will still be there to whet the appetite of racing fans. However, now the Xbox brand is about so much more than those games. Even before today the shift was well underway. Games like Fable and Avowed, with studios like Obsidian, inXile, Ninja Theory, and more promised a library of games that would have something for everyone. That wasn’t even including The Initiative’s still unannounced game.
What was already looking like a significantly improved offering of first-party games changed significantly for the better today. Microsoft’s biggest flaw in comparison to PlayStation was that Xbox did not have deep, story driven games. The potential of having Fallout, The Elder Scrolls, and Starfield as exclusives completely changes that narrative.
Having Fallout and The Elder Scrolls exclusive to the Xbox console will make Xbox a leader in the RPG genre – a genre they had struggled to gain traction in for years. Now, Avowed is joined by The Elder Scrolls and Fallout to give the Xbox Series X/S a strong foothold in a genre they’ve always struggled to succeed with.
Game Pass Just Became an Even Better Value
Not only does Xbox suddenly have a lot more AAA experiences to play, but you won’t have to shell out a ton of cash to play them. Every new Bethesda release will launch day and date on Xbox Game Pass. This is a clear differentiation from Sony’s stance on how new releases are distributed. Just this week, Sony made it clear that having a Game Pass-like model for their new releases was not sustainable because of the quality of their AAA games and the investment needed to make them.
That statement was a clear swipe at Microsoft’s AAA offerings, and it wasn’t without at least a little bit of truth. However, both Skyrim and Fallout 4 were Game of the Year contenders in the past decade. Their respective sequels will launch on Game Pass. You’ll be able to play them for being a member of Game Pass Ultimate for $14.99 per month. Do we really think that the quality of these experiences will drop off because they’re going to be on Game Pass? Clearly, the answer is no.
This is just another example of how Microsoft is taking a far different approach to the next generation. Xbox is bringing more players access to more games for less money. They’re not hiding behind arguments about quality as a reason to keep prices where they are. They’re truly trying to make gaming as accessible as possible to everyone.
The Path Forward
When Xbox Series X/S pre-orders go live this week, no one can argue that Xbox doesn’t have a system seller anymore. They’ve always had Halo, but with Fallout and The Elder Scrolls, they now have at minimum three games that fit that description. Game Pass as a service is another compelling reason to buy an Xbox.
Because this move eliminates the “Xbox doesn’t have games” argument, this acquisition is the biggest news in gaming in 2020. The acquisition of Bethesda puts a nice bow on the argument why the Xbox Series X is a great console and worth the investment. Xbox already had the most powerful console. They already had the most consumer friendly approach. Now they have the games, too.