Earlier this year, Microsoft announced its intention to purchase ZeniMax Media for a whopping $7.5 billion. Assuming that the deal is completed as expected sometime in the second half of FY2021, that means Microsoft would own all of ZeniMax’s subsidiaries and their respective franchises, of which there are many. Of those subsidiaries, Bethesda is one of the most recognizable, being the developer of both the Elder Scrolls and Fallout series.
Across the two previous generations, Bethesda’s games have been multiplatform titles. Fallout 3 and Oblivion were both on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, for instance, while Skyrim has launched on pretty much every platform imaginable over the last 9 years. Once Microsoft’s acquisition is complete, it will own the rights to the Elder Scrolls and Fallout franchises, and that’s left many of us questioning if those series will be exclusive to Xbox and PC from here on out.
It’s a question that doesn’t really have a clear answer at the moment, which Xbox chief Phil Spencer saying only that Microsoft would look at multiplatform ZeniMax releases on a “case-by-case basis”. In a new interview with GamesIndustry, Bethesda director Todd Howard said something similar, but perhaps gave hope to the idea that the Elder Scrolls will continue to be a multiplatform franchise, saying that it’s “hard to imagine,” the Elder Scrolls 6 specifically being exclusive to Microsoft’s platforms.
Before you get too excited, that almost certainly isn’t an indication of the direction either Microsoft or Bethesda are leaning on the situation, as Todd Howard also seems to share Spencer’s stance on multiplatform availability. Earlier in the interview, Howard says that Microsoft and Bethesda “haven’t gone through all of that,” as it hammers out the details of this acquisition.
“We do view it, and always have by ourselves, on a case-by-case basis,” Howard said. “We’ll do that as part of Microsoft as well. They’ve been pretty open on other platforms and not just within Xbox. This is an outside perspective, but if you go back ten years at Microsoft, you wouldn’t expect them to have a full Office suite on an iPhone either.”
Howard went onto say that while he “can’t really project where things will be,” there is a history of exclusivity between the Elder Scrolls franchise and Microsoft. Morrowind, for example, served as Bethesda’s console debut and was exclusive to Xbox. Oblivion also spent some time as a timed exclusive for Xbox 360, as did the DLC for Skyrim.
Ultimate, Howard suggests that Bethesda and Microsoft will cross the exclusivity bridge when they come to it. “We’ll decide what makes the best sense for our audience when the time comes, and I can’t really project today what that looks like.”
It’s worth keeping in mind that when this acquisition is complete, the exclusivity of the Elder Scrolls franchise will be up to Microsoft and Microsoft only, and while the company has launched several multiplatform titles this generation, making franchises like The Elder Scrolls and Fallout exclusive to Xbox Series X/S and PC could be too tempting for Microsoft to ignore. After all, $7.5 billion is a lot to drop on an acquisition like this, so whatever ends up happening, it’s clear that Microsoft has some big plans for ZeniMax and its various properties.