Xbox Acquisition Shakes Up Competition With PS5


By Spencer Thompson, Assistant Reporter

On September 21st Microsoft announced its purchase of Zenimax Media, the parent company of Bethesda Softworks, for 7.5 billion dollars. This was the second-largest deal in the video game industry, after the Chinese investment company, Tencent, acquired the mobile game studio SuperCell for 8.6 billion dollars. This announcement comes to shift the balance of power just as competition between Microsoft and Sony, and their next-generation consoles, the Xbox Series X and PS5, heats up.

For those of you who are unaware, Zenimax media is the parent company of Bethesda Softworks, one of the most well-renowned video game studios in the world. Their IPs include famous titles like the Fallout series, Elder Scrolls, Dishonored, Wolfenstein, and Doom. They have begun to expand into the mobile games market, considered one of the most lucrative areas in gaming with titles like Fallout Shelter, Elder Scrolls Legends, and Elder Scrolls Blades. They are currently experimenting with new products and IPs like Prey, a single-player first-person game from 2017, and Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo, two upcoming games this year.

Zenimax lost some of its goodwill with its consumers after the debacle that was Fallout 76, a rushed title that was met with negative reviews and controversy, with cheap collector’s editions, security breaches, game-breaking bugs, and generally lacking in polish, good graphics, story, or gameplay as contributing factors. However, Zenimax has a positive future, with both Elder Scrolls 6, possibly one of the most anticipated games of all time, and Starfield, a brand new IP meant to be at the same level as Fallout or Elder Scrolls, being teased. Doom Eternal, another IP that launched this year, has been met with critical acclaim, reasserting Zenimax’s ability to create bold and high-quality player experiences and making the company a perfect fit for Xbox.

Prior to the deal with Zenimax, most would have predicted that Sony’s PS5 was ahead in the race against its competitor, Microsoft’s Xbox Series X. Sony’s PS4 had outsold Microsoft’s Xbox One 2 to 1. This is attributed to the vast selection of phenomenal PS4 exclusive titles that Sony had. Titles like Spiderman, God of War, Ghost of Tsushima, Bloodborne, Horizon Zero Dawn, Uncharted 4, and Detroit: Become Human, were considered some of the best video games of this generation. This pattern of great games is expected to continue to the PS5, as Sony has kept up the momentum with even more exclusives like Demon Souls, Little Devil Inside, God of War: Ragnarok, and GodFall, all of which serve to strengthen Sony’s position as the best console manufacturer for finding to find high quality, single-player titles.

Exclusive titles are what sell consoles, and compared to Sony’s lineup before the acquisition, Microsoft was lacking. They had few exclusives during the Xbox One Generation, and while they bought many studios to prepare for the next generation, they still didn’t have any must-have games, as those usually take years to build. Their one system seller, Halo: Infinite, has been pushed back past the Xbox Series X’s launch date due to Covid-19 and underwhelming graphics, meaning it couldn’t carry the Xbox Series X. The biggest thing Xbox had going for it was the game pass, a Netflix-like subscription system with exceptional value. For $120 q year, you had access to a vast collection of titles including all Microsoft games, including the Halo series and Gears of War. However, with most of these titles also being on PC, there wasn’t too much of a reason to get an Xbox. While it could be said that Xbox is moving in a different direction from standard console hardware and is now trying to compete as a digital supplier, Xbox has at best just started moving in this direction and is still in direct competition with Sony as a console manufacturer.

This all changed when Microsoft announced its acquisition of Zenimax. With this groundbreaking deal, Microsoft now has all Bethesda titles on Gamepass, adding even further value to the subscription service, and all upcoming Bethesda titles are now Xbox exclusives. However, it was suggested that exclusivity would be handed out on a case-by-case basis, meaning that if Sony wants a Bethesda game, Sony better be willing to pay for it.

This completely flips the table between the PS5 and the Series X. Xbox now seems to be ahead with the Bethesda acquisition handling Microsoft’s great issue of exclusives which with the sheer value of Gamepass and a cheap console, the future of Xbox is looking up.