As if coming out with the Xbox Series X and adding EA Play to Xbox Game Pass wasn’t enough, Microsoft dropped a bombshell on the gaming industry on Monday morning. The parent company behind the Xbox systems has purchased ZenMax Media for more than $7 billion, meaning that all things Bethesda is now under the Microsoft umbrella. This means the parent company for Xbox and Windows now owns gaming series such as The Elder Scrolls, Doom, Quake, Wolfenstein, Fallout, and Dishonored.
Halo, Gears of War, Forza, and Crackdown are a sample of franchises that you will only find on Microsoft platforms like Xbox and PC. The Bethesda deal leads to the speculation that future Elder Scrolls, Doom and Fallout titles will eventually become Microsoft exclusives once current contract deals with Bethesda games on other gaming platforms run their course. More exclusivity could give Microsoft a much-needed boost in the video game race, but Is this enough for the organization to close the gap with Sony (Playstation) and Nintendo?
Let’s take some time and focus on what Bethesda brings to the table. The Elder Scrolls series is considered to be one of the best in gaming history. The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion and The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim are among the most modded video games of all time. If any gamer wanted to see examples of how mods can transform a game into something new and fresh, those two games would be at the top of the list. The game worlds are insanely huge with a ridiculous amount of things to do and explore. Some gamers have invested thousands of hours into these games. The Elder Scrolls Online introduced an online multiplayer version of the medieval fantasy world that currently houses more than 16 million subscribers.
Substituting the medieval fantasy landscape of Elder Scrolls for a futuristic post-nuclear theme lands you into the world of Fallout. Instead of swords and magic, you’re dealing with guns and technology. The mods for Fallout 3, Fallout 4, and Fallout New Vegas are very plentiful and add a ton of content to their respective games. Imagine the full library of Elder Scrolls and Fallout being available on Game Pass to play at any time and not worrying about it having a limited shelf life because the games are owned by Microsoft.
When considering Doom and Quake, we are talking about first-person shooter mastery. The two franchises have a long history within the genre and are very highly regarded. In many ways, Doom (est. 1993) was the forerunner to Quake (est. 1996) the same way that Wolfenstein 3D (est. 1992) was to Doom. The three franchises are linked due to the games all being developed by id Software. Whether in single-player campaigns or multiplayer arenas, the gameplay is fast, chaotic, gory, and full of action. It’s definitely not for children or the faint of heart. Doom Eternal (2020) and Quake Champions (2017) are the most recent titles from the two brands.
I’m actually pretty impressed that Microsoft is making some big strides in 2020 and really wants itself to be a major contender in the next-generation console market as the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S will be taking on the Playstation 5 in the new console market this fall and holiday season. In a future post, I will share why I will not be purchasing any of the new systems at launch but I can understand those of you who already have your pre-orders in and are anticipating their releases.
Competition is very good and healthy when it comes to any market. It pushes companies to reach for their highest potential because they know that when competition exists, the consumers have other options. When consumers have a greater selection of choices, they also tend to be happier consumers. Is it any coincidence that the current Metacritic average user score for NBA 2k21 is barely over a 1.0 while the user score for NBA 2k5 was 7.65? NBA 2K21 is the only basketball simulation that holds the NBA license in 2020 while there were several basketball simulations in 2004 when NBA 2K5 was released.
The fact that Microsoft was demolished by Sony in the Playstation 4 vs Xbox One battle has pushed the Xbox parent company to start thinking more unconventionally. Game Pass, which is a phenomenal gaming service, was birthed in 2017 to help the Xbox One become more relevant. Yet three years later, Xbox One sales are still far behind the Nintendo Switch and PS4. Along with the addition of EA Play to Game Pass, Microsoft is also hoping to gain more consumers through its various options of next-generation gaming. The Xbox Series X will be the conventional system that will be able to play discs for $500. For $200 less, the Xbox Series S is an all-digital formatted system. Both systems are available for Xbox All Access, which is a monthly payment program that includes the system and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate with no upfront fees. It seems that Microsoft doesn’t want money to be an issue for gamers wanting to give their systems a try.
I would like to see the new systems do well for Microsoft. The company had a big drop off from the Xbox 360 to the Xbox One. I had an Xbox One at one point but then traded it in to go towards the purchase of a PS4. If I want to play a Microsoft exclusive then I do so on PC. Meanwhile, I still have my Xbox 360 which is more than a decade old. In my opinion, the 360 is the best system Microsoft has released to date in 2020 and indicative of what the organization is capable of in the gaming marketplace. Perhaps the company’s acquisition of Bethesda is one way to get back in the race.