Microsoft closes $7.5 billion Bethesda acquisition, aiming to take on Sony with exclusive games

Key Points
  • Microsoft has closed its $7.5 billion acquisition of ZeniMax, the parent company of Bethesda.
  • Microsoft confirmed that some new Bethesda games would be exclusive to Xbox consoles and PCs.
  • The firm has often been seen as lagging behind Sony when it comes to major first-party releases.

In this article

Todd Howard, director and executive producer at Bethesda Game Studios.
Christian Petersen | Getty Images

Microsoft says it has closed its blockbuster acquisition of ZeniMax, the parent company of video game publisher Bethesda.

The company announced in September that it would buy ZeniMax for $7.5 billion in cash. It's the biggest gaming acquisition in Microsoft's history, eclipsing the $2.5 billion the firm paid to buy Minecraft developer Mojang in 2014.

The Bethesda deal's completion comes days after the European Union and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission gave the takeover their blessing. Bethesda is a household name in gaming. It's published a number of hit franchises including the role-playing game series Fallout and The Elder Scrolls, and the Doom shooter franchise.

In a blog post Tuesday, Microsoft confirmed rumors that some new Bethesda games would be exclusive to its Xbox console and Windows PCs.

"With the addition of the Bethesda creative teams, gamers should know that Xbox consoles, PC, and Game Pass will be the best place to experience new Bethesda games, including some new titles in the future that will be exclusive to Xbox and PC players," said Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft's Xbox unit.

Such a move would ramp up Microsoft's competition with Sony. Both firms debuted their next-generation consoles last year, hoping to lure in gamers with the promise of big improvements on the older systems.

Microsoft took a different approach to Sony though, heavily marketing its Xbox Game Pass subscription service which offers players access to a library of games. Sony, on the other hand, is touting new PlayStation exclusives to attract gamers.

With Bethesda, Microsoft is hoping to build out Xbox Game Pass by including the Rockville, Maryland-based studio's catalog of titles. But it also aims to convince people to play on its Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S platforms and PCs, rather than Sony's new PlayStation 5.

Microsoft has often been seen as lagging behind Sony when it comes to major first-party releases. Xbox Game Studios' highly anticipated new Halo game, Halo Infinite, was delayed until later this year after a backlash over quality issues in a reveal of the game.

Gaming has been a key beneficiary from the coronavirus pandemic as people have been spending more of their time at home. Major publishers like Microsoft's Xbox Game Studios and Electronic Arts have looked to capitalize on that trend by using their huge cash piles to snap up smaller game developers.