Microsoft’s purchase of Bethesda has finally born the fruit most of us were expecting. In a blog post supposedly welcoming its new set of studios to the Microsoft family, Phil Spencer, head of Xbox, laid out the real news:
With the addition of the Bethesda creative teams, gamers should know that Xbox consoles, PC, and Game Pass will be the best place to experience new Bethesda games, including some new titles in the future that will be exclusive to Xbox and PC players.
Back in November, Microsoft tried to argue there was more nuance to this point. Tim Stuart, CFO of the Xbox division, was trotted out to make mouth noises implying that while console exclusives could happen, Microsoft was much more focused on making games better on Xbox than cutting off Nintendo or Sony players. Here’s Tim Stuart:
What we’ll do in the long run is we don’t have intentions of just pulling all of Bethesda content out of Sony or Nintendo or otherwise. But what we want is we want that content, in the long run, to be either first or better or best or pick your differentiated experience, on our platforms. We will want Bethesda content to show up the best as — on our platforms. Yes. That’s not a point about being exclusive. That’s not a point about we’re being — adjusting timing or content or road map. But if you think about something like Game Pass, if it shows up best in Game Pass, that’s what we want to see.
While Stuart mentions being first, he puts more emphasis on quality, flexibility, and ensuring that games play well as Game Pass titles. The only type of exclusive he actually references is a timed exclusive. Games that only launch for Xbox and PC aren’t launching for those platforms first, they’re launching for those platforms exclusively.
With that said, we know a bit more about Bethesda’s plans than just these comments. The developer has already announced that Doom Eternal and The Elder Scrolls Online will be upgraded with enhanced effects for next-generation gaming on the Xbox Series S|X and the PlayStation 5. We also know that two PS5 exclusives — Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo — will still ship for that console. Bethesda’s Todd Howard has publicly stated it was “hard to imagine” The Elder Scrolls 6 as a Microsoft-exclusive title. Nothing has been said about next-gen upgrades for games like Fallout 76 or the Wolfenstein games on either platform.
A few things seem clear from this. First, Bethesda has been allowed to complete projects that were in the pipeline, even when those projects were for Microsoft’s chief competitor. Second, Bethesda employees have given the impression at least some future titles would still be developed for multi-platform releases.
Microsoft’s references to exclusivity may or may not come with timers attached. Historically, Sony has maintained its own stable of franchises like God of War, Horizon: Zero Dawn, and The Last of Us. Some of its exclusive games have later come to PC, but others have remained PlayStation-only for decades.
Spencer claims that “some” games will be PC/Xbox exclusive without clarifying how many games will or won’t be covered by the word, or how long it will apply for. If Microsoft’s goal is to build exclusive titles for the Xbox, it’s got precious little reason to share its IP with Sony. There were hopes that the Xbox Series S|X would hit differently than the Xbox One did back in 2012, but both Microsoft and Sony have been matching their previous launch figures, not beating them. Limited supply due to the ongoing semiconductor shortage has undoubtedly played a role here, but this probably isn’t the position Microsoft wanted to be in two console launches in a row.
If Microsoft wants to minimize fan reactions, it’ll keep existing multi-platform franchises on multiple platforms and only release new IP or spin-off concepts exclusively for Xbox. Moving most or all of Bethesda’s AAA franchises to Xbox exclusives might drive some console sales, but it would also create a lot of bad feelings.
Now that Microsoft owns Bethesda, it ought to give Obsidian permission to create another Fallout game. While I can’t speak for every Fallout fan, I’d be pretty happy to get either a spiritual sequel to Fallout New Vegas set elsewhere in the world or even a new turn-based isometric title somewhat more in the tradition of Fallout 2.
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