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Hot Take: Bethesda isn’t the most important part of the ZeniMax acquisition

With the ZeniMax acquisition having been approved and finalised, finally the curtains can be lifted and work started. Xbox probably had some idea of what they want to do with the new studios but now they can actually make plans. My personal feelings on the matter are that there’s more to the acquisition than just Bethesda. My ‘Hot Take’ is that the other studios are more important than Bethesda.

As Phil Spencer’s best friend and constant golfing buddy, I feel I’m in a perfect position to talk about this. Not to brag but I also stay two shots lower than Phil every game. I’m obviously joking here of course, I hate golf.

Enough joshing around, let’s get into what I think the real strengths of the ZeniMax acquisition are for Xbox. Where I think this is going and, I guess, do I think it’s even good?

The Obvious.

Let’s look at the obvious stuff first. That being Bethesda, with Elder Scrolls and Fallout for the most part. These two franchises are juggernauts of the western RPG genre. Whether you like any of them, there’s no mistake that basically every gamer knows of them at least.

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Skyrim alone is on every console and in every generation since launch. I alone, have the original release on 360, the Xbox One version, the Switch version, and have it on PC. I’m literally the reason they keep releasing this cash cow.

We already know that the Elder Scrolls VI is en route eventually, we know Starfield is coming, and it’s likely there will be a Fallout 5. That’s a lot of RPGs right there that covers medieval, kinda post-apocalyptic, and future space. 

But what’s more important?

Here’s my, kind of, Hot Take. Are you ready? Bethesda is the least interesting and least important part of the whole acquisition. This might seem entirely contradictory to what you might think, based on the storms over Twitter. I actually think the diversity and quality of the rest of the studios is far more important. 

To get a big W out of the way for Philly Spence, Xbox now has their first Japanese studio. That being Tango Gameworks, creators of The Evil Within series and who are currently working on PS5/ PC timed exclusive Ghostwire: Tokyo. This gives Xbox their first foot in the door into Japan but also adds a horror studio to the roster. Having only just started The Evil Within I can’t say too much but it’s definitely interesting so far.

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Then there’s the Godfather of FPS, ID Software. Not only did they literally invent the FPS genre of games but they’ve been really smashing it recently. Doom 2016 and Eternal are widely considered some of the best FPS games to come out in recent memory. Doom, alongside Halo and Gears, make Xbox the only place to play shooters. Other than third party games, like CoD and Battlefield, they have it on lock, and that includes deals like the one with Bungie and Destiny 2 for Game Pass.

Then there’s my favourite of the new batch of games for Game Pass, Prey. Arkane Studios, also the creators of Dishonored, are an incredible studio. Pretty much owning the superpowered action stealth genre, Dishonored 2 and Prey might be the most underrated games of the last generation. They really are absolute titans of gaming, not only do we just need more, if Xbox manages to get Dishonored 3 or Prey 2… gollygosh that will be such a boon.

This literally isn’t even all of the studios that were purchased.

What about exclusivity?

Phil Spencer, along with others including Todd Howard, had a sit down recently. It was after the official acquisition of ZeniMax was confirmed. You can watch it here, but be warned, it’s long.

In it Phil mentions what the acquisition means for Xbox fans and gaming fans at large. What he said was this:

“Obviously I can’t sit here and say every Bethesda game is [an Xbox] exclusive, because we know that’s not true, there’s contractual obligations that we’re going to see through. We have games that exist on other platforms and we’re going to go and support those games on the platforms they’re on. There’s communities of players – we love those communities and will continue to invest in them – and even in the future there might be…either contractual things or legacy on different platforms that we’ll go do.”

He continued with:

“But if you’re an Xbox customer, the thing I want you to know is this is about delivering great exclusive games for you that ship on platforms where Game Pass exists.”

Here’s my personal take here. Contractual and legacy in this context simply means already signed exclusivity deals and already released multiplatform games. So contracts like Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo that are already signed timed exclusive will be honoured. Phil has already confirmed this previously. 

Then the legacy part simply refers to already released games or remasters. All updates for Elder Scrolls Online or Fallout 76 will go to all platforms. A remaster/remake of Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion would also be multiplatform. 

That’s it though.

Is this good or bad?

It’s my opinion that Elder Scrolls VI, Fallout 5, Starfield, ‘Doom 3’, ‘Prey 2’, ‘The Evil Within 3’ are all going to be Xbox exclusives. Most of these are just examples and not confirmed games by the way. My point is, the only way you would be able to play these games is if Game Pass is available there.

This would still make them the most accessible exclusives on the market on release day. This in of itself makes the Xbox approach far, far more consumer friendly than the competition. PlayStation and Nintendo keep pretty much their entire roster behind their singular console (or in sole cases for PS, two consoles now).

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Xbox would make these available for you on all Xbox Ones (for as long as that generation is supported anyway), Xbox Series consoles, any computer, and on your phone or tablet. In some cases, you don’t even need to have a gaming machine of any kind. Just xCloud on your phone for example.

It also gives the studios more time, funding, and freedom to create and innovate. MS has deep pockets, proven by the 7.5 billion dollars of pocket money spent on ZeniMax. They also, along with Xbox, understand the potential of the gaming sector. Phil has spent this whole time building up trust from the community and I don’t think he’d jeopardise it by releasing “unfinished” games. Xbox’s reputation can’t afford for them to release a Cyberpunk 2077. So all of the games coming will be released at the best they can be. A good example is Halo Infinite. They aren’t beyond just delaying their literal poster boy game at the launch of a new generation.

All of the ZeniMax games will only be released in an absolute complete state. Meaning for gamers, more of our games and franchises will be released in better condition.

In the end…

The key point that I’m trying to make is that even when you don’t include Bethesda, Xbox made a great investment. Adding half a dozen studios that are masters in half a dozen different genres and styles. Well, it just sets Xbox and Game Pass up as not only the best deal but the most diverse offering in gaming.

I mean the moment that the acquisition was finalised they added 20 games to various Game Pass sections. Either to console, PC, mobile, and some even went to all of them. I alone, since they were added, played multiple games. Playing Prey for the first time, finishing Wolfenstein, replaying Dishonored but on console for the first time, and trying The Evil Within. I did all of this without spending a single extra penny.

With all new games coming day and date to Game Pass, you’re able to get a great range of games for basically free. As a gamer, this is what really and truly excites me. For the future and for the industry. Also my wallet.

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