Publishers have been acquiring different game developers since gaming even began. They do this to try to diversify their development staff and buy interesting new properties. Recent examples include EA’s acquisition of Respawn Entertainment and Sony’s acquisition of Insomniac. However, with the news of Microsoft buying Bethesda, it’s not just developers on the table anymore. Microsoft have acquired a publisher and all of their existing properties. If massive publishers are now buying other massive publishers, where does it end?
Will other massive publishers be bought?
Microsoft buying Bethesda is only going to send the game industry down a rocky path. We can make comparisons to Disney, another company that has been buying properties left, right, and centre. It’s not quite at those levels yet, but Microsoft have just laid down a marker. I can only see Sony and Nintendo following suit, trying to keep up by buying other publishers. Depending on the morals of these companies, gaming could get a lot more expensive.
Sony has an excellent relationship with Square Enix. After all, both Final Fantasy VII Remake and the upcoming Final Fantasy XVI are currently PlayStation exclusives. To keep up with Microsoft, it could force Sony to purchase Square Enix, making iconic franchises like Tomb Raider, Deus Ex, and Final Fantasy exclusive to their console. Microsoft buying Bethesda have put companies that we thought were untouchable back on the market.
Nintendo has a similar company in their back pocket. The latest Nintendo Direct had two Monster Hunter titles announced, a property owned by Capcom. Both publishers have a very good relationship, and it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility that Nintendo could buy them. That would make properties such as Resident Evil, Monster Hunter, Street Fighter, and Devil May Cry exclusive to Nintendo consoles. This is all just conjecture, but it’s also a worst-case scenario situation we may find ourselves in later down the line.
Bethesda games could be Microsoft exclusive.
Microsoft buying Bethesda means that every single one of Bethesda’s existing properties is now Microsoft’s. They now have the power to do whatever they like with these properties. Although, I don’t think they’ll make their massive franchises like Fallout and The Elder Scrolls exclusive. This would be a very unpopular move amongst the gaming community, and one that would probably do more harm for their reputation than good. I won’t rule it out, but this acquisition is all about Xbox Game Pass.
Having Bethesda titles available from day one on Game Pass would be a massive incentive for people to jump on board the Xbox. Couple that with how cheap an Xbox Series S is, and it would be tempting for people to switch sides. Microsoft has made it pretty clear that they’re focusing on the value of Game Pass, enticing players in with a good deal, and then getting them integrated into the Xbox ecosystem.
But if you’re one of the few people like me who’ve actually managed to pre-order a PS5, you’ve probably got quite a few questions. It’s up in the air at the moment whether Bethesda titles will be come to PlayStation systems. Executives over at Bethesda and Microsoft have stated that future titles won’t be exclusive to Xbox, but that doesn’t mean they’re working with Sony. Microsoft could easily release titles on PC with some also on the Switch and happily call it a day. Just now, Phil Spencer has said that games will come to other consoles on a “case-by-case basis“.
The Future is Uncertain
I personally hold the ideals that everyone should be able to play great games. If the worst-case scenario happens, and Microsoft make some Bethesda properties permanent Xbox exclusives, I’ll lose a lot of respect for them. They’ve been incredibly consumer friendly this past couple of years, and to cut out PS5 owners from established Bethesda properties would be an enormous step in the opposite direction. Microsoft buying Bethesda is one of the biggest moments in the history of the gaming industry, and will shape its future dramatically.
Hopefully, Microsoft will have a more open attitude after this deal. I’m sure a lot of PlayStation owners are now anxious about the future of their favourite franchises, and Phil Spencer’s “case by case” release strategy on other consoles does not fill me with optimism. Unfortunately, we should expect more massive acquisitions like this in the future from both Sony and Nintendo as well as Microsoft. If every console manufacturer decides to make everything exclusive, it could be catastrophic for not only the gaming industry, but for the customer as well.