Microsoft Is Buying Bethesda Parent ZeniMax for $7.5 Billion

The Elder Scrolls franchise is one of Bethesda’s biggest hits.

Microsoft might have failed to get a piece of TikTok during the recent scramble for a US partner, but it just secured a much more valuable prize: ZeniMax. The company has agreed to pay $7.5 billion in cash to buy the game publisher, which comes with Bethesda Softworks and its raft of popular game franchises like Doom, Fallout, and The Elder Scrolls (pictured, top). You might want to reevaluate your next-gen console decisions. 

Bethesda is the biggest name included in the deal, but it’s not the only jewel in the ZeniMax crown. Microsoft will also snag id Software, ZeniMax Online Studios, Arkane, MachineGames, Tango Gameworks, Alpha Dog, and Roundhouse Studios. This isn’t the first time Microsoft has spent big to acquire a developer at the top of its game. In 2014, Microsoft spent $2.5 billion on Mojang developer Minecraft. Microsoft has also managed not to ruin Minecraft after six years, so that gives us some hope. 

This is a pivotal time for game developers as the next-gen game consoles are just about to launch. ZeniMax already has a contract to make Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo exclusives on the Sony PlayStation 5. I wouldn’t expect Microsoft to just give up on that IP, though. If either game is a hit, the Xbox Series X will probably get a special edition somewhere down the line. Microsoft’s Phil Spencer has said that Microsoft will honor that agreement. However, future games from the ZeniMax/Bethesda group will arrive on competing consoles on a “case by case basis.” 

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Bethesda executive producer Todd Howard seems to suggest this will be more of a Minecraft situation. “Like our original partnership, this one is about more than one system or one screen,” Todd said in a Bethesda blog post. Bethesda’s head of global marketing confirms the company plans to continue working on its games with the same development and management team. This at least implies Microsoft will limit its interference with ZeniMax. One potential upshot is the addition of Bethesda games to Microsoft’s increasingly appealing Xbox Game Pass for console and PC. 

The deal is public, but it’s not set in stone yet. The purchase is expected to close in the first half of 2021, assuming there are no snags. With a deal of this size and the all-cash offer, it’s unlikely anyone will make a stink.

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