It has not been that long since Microsoft announced a potential acquisition of Zenimax, parent company of Bethesda Games, but the process is just a few steps away from the finish line. The $7.5 billion deal requires some degree of government oversight to go through in order to investigate potential competition concerns, but the European Commission has moved ahead to certify the sale.
“The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns, given the combined entity’s limited market position upstream and the presence of strong downstream competitors in the distribution of video games,” the commission report points out, essentially saying that neither Bethesda nor Microsoft are so large that this would oppress the rest of the industry.
At the moment, Bethesda games are not going to be exclusive to Microsoft’s platforms, but we only really know that for sure in the case of games that have already been agreed upon, like Ghostwire: Tokyo and Deathloop. Beyond that, it is unclear what Microsoft plans to do with the formerly-third-party publisher and their usually multiplatform games.
There is also, perhaps, a broader discussion that the Microsoft/Zenimax deal requires beyond the legal definition of monopoly. As more and more third-party publishers find the cost of doing business too high, a first-party platform holder buying one up makes the creeping compression of the industry a bit more obvious than it usually is. Microsoft is definitely not the biggest consumer of other developers and publishers — you can lay that particular dead bird at the doorstep of the Embracer Group — but it does make me tug at my collar a little bit more.
Microsoft is rumored to have a conference after the acquisition is officially finalized, but Xbox Marketing GM Aaron Greenberg has tamped down expectations of any such event. I imagine the first order of business would be to get Bethesda’s back catalog onto Gamepass, not make sweeping announcements about exclusivity.