In a year dominated by new console releases, Microsoft’s announcement today may be the biggest gaming news of 2020. The Xbox maker has signed a deal to buy ZeniMax Media, one of the largest independent game publishers. Its name may not ring a bell, but the studios it owns indeed will since they are behind some of the biggest franchises in gaming’s history. That includes id Software (Doom, Quake), Arkane Studios (Dishonored, Prey), Tango Gameworks (The Evil Within), and Bethesda Game Studios (The Elder Scrolls, Fallout).
Microsoft is paying $7.5 billion in an all-cash deal.
which is expected to complete in the second half of 2021, subject to regulatory approval. The company was valued in 2016 for around $2.5 billion and has been the subject of takeover speculation for much of the year. A statement, published to Reddit and found by SegmentNext, claimed that Sony had been eyeing up one of the biggest publishers around.
Xbox head Phil Spencer said that the relationship between Microsoft and ZeniMax’s studios has always been cordial. After all, id Software was behind the original Wolfenstein and Doom, giving them exalted status in the history of PC gaming. Spencer added that the deal would see several Bethesda titles being added to Xbox Game Pass for both console and PC players in the coming months.
And yes, fans of irony will note that Microsoft will soon own the publisher behind a couple of PlayStation exclusive titles. Tango Gameworks’ Ghostwire: Tokyo and Arkane’s Deathloop are both headed for the PS5 with no clear indication if they’ll ever make it to the Xbox. That said, announcing that several engaging titles are headed to Game Pass a day before pre-orders open for the new machines is a genius piece of marketing.
Microsoft’s Xbox team significantly expanded its list of game development studios on Monday, announcing the purchase of ZeniMax Media for $7.5 billion in cash. The entertainment company own several industry-leading game developers, including Bethesda Softworks, the maker of the post-apocalyptic Fallout game, and the fantasy series the Elder Scrolls. It also own id Software, known for it’s Doom, Rage, and Wallenstein shooting games franchises.
The move grows the number of in-house Xbox game development studios to 23, up from 15 earlier, and giving it control of some of the game industry’s most popular franchises. Microsoft also plans to run Bethesda as its division, with leadership and structure intact.
Microsoft’s move comes weeks before the November launch of its next big video game consoles, the $500 Xbox Series X and $300 Xbox Series S, promising sharper visuals and faster gameplay than their predecessors. The new game consoles will be competing against Sony’s $500 PlayStation 5 and $400 discloses PlayStation 5 Digital Edition, also coming out in November.