Xbox’s gargantuan $7.5 billion acquisition of Bethesda Softworks parent company Zenimax Media has been given the go-ahead by the European Union.
After months of investigating, the EU has cleared Microsoft's proposed buyout after deeming the company's plans to have ”no competition concerns” for the future of the games industry.
Known for creating the hugely influential Elder Scrolls series as well as publishing Doom, Wolfenstein, Dishonored and more, Bethesda will now join the Xbox Game Studios family this year. This merger will bring Xbox’s total number of game studios from 15 to 23.
Why Xbox's acquisition was decided by the EU
Much like the high-profile Disney acquisition of 20th Century Fox, Microsoft’s plans to pick up Zenimax Media was investigated on the grounds of anti-competitor practices. EU competition law is used to regulate huge companies from creating monopolies in certain fields, such as gaming.
Following months of investigations, the EU has decided that Zenimax’s merge into Microsoft “raises no competition concerns, given the combined entity’s limited market position upstream and the presence of strong downstream competitors in the distribution of video games.”
While Xbox has been picking up smaller developers such as Ninja Theory, Obsidian Entertainment and Compulsion Games, this is by far the brand’s largest merger. The company's largest games acquisition before this was their $2.5 billion deal for Minecraft devs Mojang Studios.
What will happen to Bethesda games following the Xbox deal?
There’s currently no plans to make every game created and published by Bethesda Softworks exclusive to the current Xbox ecosystem. Despite the massive monetary cost of picking up Zenimax Media, Microsoft’s plans for the future of Bethesda seem quite broad.
Xbox exclusivity for Bethesda titles will be decided on a “case by case” basis, according to Xbox boss Phil Spencer. However, every Bethesda game that launches on Xbox will immediately be more accessible for those users.
With Xbox Game Pass and the xCloud streaming service becoming a huge focus of the gaming brand, Microsoft is planning to make every Bethesda game available on the subscription service on launch day. It’s a killer plan, especially if Microsoft plans to keep releases multiplatform; why pay full price for a game on PlayStation when you can get it for free on Xbox?
Despite the acquisition, certain titles that are already planned to launch first on PS4 and PS5 will still be timed exclusives on those systems. Arkane’s Deathloop and Tango Gameworks’ Ghostwire Tokyo will launch first on PlayStation with currently unknown exclusivity periods. Although, judging from previous timed exclusivity deals on PlayStation, they’ll likely remain only on PlayStation hardware for a year.