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Microsoft’s $7.5 billion Bethesda acquisition bolsters Xbox Game Pass

The Preorders for the Xbox Series X and S begin tomorrow, and Microsoft just gave fans a reason to feel good about showing up to the next-gen party. Xbox is acquiring Bethesda Softworks and its parent company, ZeniMax Media. Bethesda is the publisher responsible for games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Fallout, and Doom. And now those games join Halo and Gears of War as first-party Microsoft releases that will contribute to filling out the Xbox Game Pass service in the future.

As part of the deal, Microsoft is paying $7.5 billion in cash for ZeniMax Media. That fee will get Microsoft all of Bethesda’s properties as well as eight studios with 2,300 employees. Those teams include Bethesda Studios, Id Software, ZeniMax Online, Arkane Studios, Machine Games, Tango Gameworks, Alpha Dog Games, and Roundhouse Studios.

“All of our work, and the foundation of our relationship with you, starts with a commitment to deliver a breadth of amazing games to discover and play on Xbox,” Xbox boss Phil Spencer wrote in a blog post. “Today is a landmark step in our journey together, and I’m incredibly energized by what this step means for Xbox.”

This is one of the largest acquisitions in the history of video games, and it speaks to Microsoft’s current strategy. Every Bethesda release will now launch on the Netflix-of-games-style Xbox Game Pass subscription service. And that is exactly why Bethesda is worth so much to Microsoft. A membership program needs content, and — in games — that requires a robust in-house development program.

This deal also generates new questions. Will all future Bethesda games go Xbox and PC exclusive? What does this mean for Deathloop, Bethesda’s PlayStation 5 exclusive. We are reaching out for those answers and more. But we already know a bit about how Microsoft and Bethesda will work together on the studio’s MMORPG, The Elder Scrolls Online.

The Elder Scrolls Online is on PlayStation, Xbox, and PC, and it’s one of the biggest MMORPGs around these days, with an audience thriving on both PC and console.

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