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The console war heats up as Microsoft purchases Bethesda for US$7.5 billion

The console battle between Sony and Microsoft just took an unexpected turn with the announcement that the latter’s titan tech company has purchased ZeniMax Media.

Who is ZeniMax Media, we hear you ask? Oh, you know, just one of the biggest video game holding companies in the world. Founded in 1999, ZeniMax is home to an array of top-level video game production houses, including id Software, Bethesda Softworks and Bethesda Game Studios. That’s right folks, Microsoft now has a controlling interest in some of the biggest and best video game franchises in history, including DOOM, Wolfenstein, Fallout and The Elder Scrolls.

The deal, worth a cheeky US$7.5 billion, means Microsoft now own all the subsidiaries of ZeniMax. Along with the well known id Software, Bethesda Softworks and Bethesda Game Studios, Microsoft also has a stake in Arkane, Tango Gameworks, MachineGames, Roundhouse Studios and Alpha Dog.

“Like us, Bethesda are passionate believers in building a diverse array of creative experiences, in expanding new game franchises, and in telling stories in a bold way,” Phil Spencer, Head of Xbox, revealed in a statement. “All of their great work will of course continue and grow and we look forward to empowering them with the resources and support of Microsoft to scale their creative visions to more players in new ways for you.”

While the news is certainly a pleasant surprise for those looking to purchase the new Xbox Series X, PS5 fans shouldn’t be too concerned. At this stage it seems unlikely Microsoft will turn franchises such as DOOM and Fallout into Xbox exclusives, especially considering Bethesda has been working on PS5 exclusive titles Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo. Microsoft confirmed these games would arrive on the PS5 first before eventually being released on the Series X. It seems from all accounts that Microsoft is happy to release games on multiple consoles, although they are taking a game-by-game approach.

This power move by Microsoft appears to have been made to secure more content for Microsoft’s burgeoning Xbox Games Pass lineup. The video game subscription service will include all of Bethesda’s big titles when the sale is complete, which is great news for the service’s 15 million subscribers. As explained by The Verge, Game Pass currently makes around $1 billion in annual subscription revenue a year, but the addition of games from id and Bethesda means this could double within the next six months. The Verge estimates 50 million subscribers would generate roughly $6 billion a year for Microsoft, making it one of the largest and prosperous game developers in the world.

Whatever Microsoft decide to do with their newly acquired asset, it’s safe to say they are tightening their grip on the gaming market and pinning their hopes on subscription services being the future of gaming. As for gamers, it means more outlets to play games, be it on a console, a PC or online via the cloud, which is fantastic news.