Microsoft shocked the gaming world yesterday by announcing an acquisition of ZeniMax Medi. That name may not ring any bells for many gamers, but it is the company that owns Bethesda Softworks. Of course, Bethesda is the company behind the Elder Scrolls and Fallout franchises and is one of the most popular and respected developers in gaming.
According to a blog post from Microsoft, the company will pay $7.5 billion in cash to acquire ZeniMax. Yes, that's significantly more than the $2.5 billion Redmond paid to acquire Minecraft in 2014.
Minecraft has gone on to become the best-selling game of all time under Microsoft's wing. While the company will not expect Bethesda titles to deliver similar results, there is just as much ambition behind this purchase.
Microsoft points to a shift towards a player-centric gaming market instead of the traditional device-centric market. This does not mean the company is abandoning Xbox anytime soon, but it means Bethesda will play a big role in the company delivering its cloud-based digital gaming plans.
Project xCloud or Xbox Game Streaming is a platform that allows users to play Xbox games on any device or platform, unless it's an iPhone on iOS. Microsoft leverages its Azure cloud service to handle resources, removing performance loads from users.
Microsoft has already combined the xCloud preview with its Xbox Game Pass subscription service, that allows users to access a catalog of games for a monthly fee. These two services together create a robust start to Redmond's plans for an all-encompassing game-streaming service.
Nadella says the deal to acquire Bethesda is as much about the digital future as it is about bringing a major developer to Microsoft Game Studios:
“Gaming is the most expansive category in the entertainment industry, as people everywhere turn to gaming to connect, socialize and play with their friends,” said Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft. “Quality differentiated content is the engine behind the growth and value of Xbox Game Pass—from Minecraft to Flight Simulator. As a proven game developer and publisher, Bethesda has seen success across every category of games, and together, we will further our ambition to empower the more than three billion gamers worldwide.”
We also cannot ignore that Microsoft will now control two of the most respected gaming franchise, Fallout and Elder Scrolls. As console success can often hinge partly on exclusivity, Microsoft is keeping these popular titles away from Sony.