Microsoft Acquires Video Game Studio Bethesda and Sister Companies for $7.5B

ZeniMax Media is the parent company of game developer and publisher Bethesda. It is responsible for several big-name video game franchises.

Written by Gordon Gottsegen
Published on Sep. 21, 2020
Microsoft Acquires Video Game Studio Bethesda and Sister Companies for $7.5B
Bethesda Xbox partnership
Image: Microsoft

With new Xbox consoles on the way — as well as the PlayStation 5Microsoft is taking steps to solidify its place as a powerhouse in the video game industry.

On Monday, Microsoft announced that it was acquiring ZeniMax Media for $7.5 billion in cash.

ZeniMax Media is a video games holding company that is best known as the parent company of Bethesda Game Studios, the developer of The Elder Scrolls and Fallout franchises, as well as game publisher Bethesda Softworks. But ZeniMax Media is also the parent company of several other video game developers that are responsible for game franchises like DoomWolfenstein, Dishonored, The Evil Within and more.

Many of these franchises are huge names in the video game industry, with several blockbuster game titles. So this is a huge win for Xbox-maker Microsoft because not only is the company getting in on the action with all these successful game launches, the move helps convince fans of the franchises to stick to the Xbox ecosystem if they want to play their favorite games. With Microsoft as the new parent company, many of Bethesda’s upcoming games could come as Xbox exclusives — meaning Xbox gamers may be the first to play new releases, if not the only ones (sorry PS5 gamers). It could also help Microsoft sell its upcoming Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S consoles.

Microsoft also revealed that games under the ZeniMax Media umbrella will help fuel its new Xbox Game Pass cloud-based gaming service. This service allows gamers to play games via online streaming — almost like a Netflix or Spotify for video games — on Xbox consoles or PCs. Microsoft says that it plans to have new Bethesda games on Xbox Game Pass the same day they launch for consoles.

“Gaming is the most expansive category in the entertainment industry, as people everywhere turn to gaming to connect, socialize and play with their friends,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a statement. “Quality differentiated content is the engine behind the growth and value of Xbox Game Pass — from Minecraft to Flight Simulator. As a proven game developer and publisher, Bethesda has seen success across every category of games, and together, we will further our ambition to empower the more than three billion gamers worldwide.”

Bethesda and Microsoft have been partners for many years, from the time Bethesda created its first game for PC and then the original Xbox. So this acquisition will be a continuation of that partnership. Bethesda’s leadership structure will remain unchanged, and Microsoft will keep Bethesda’s more than 2,300 employees. Microsoft expects the acquisition to close in the second half of 2021.

“This is a thrilling day for this company, our employees, and our fans. We have enjoyed a close partnership with Microsoft for decades, and this deal is a natural progression of those years working together,” ZeniMax founder, CEO and Chairman Robert A. Altman said in a statement. “The big winners today are our fans. We are continuing to develop our slate of AAA games, but now with Microsoft’s scale and entire Game Stack, our games can only get better.”

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