An uproar of cheer echoed across the Internet as Microsoft and Bethesda celebrated their neoteric achievement with a video. The upbeat trailer advertising Microsoft’s recent acquisition of Bethesda was filled with smiling studio heads, ecstatic gamers, and action-packed gameplay footage from Bethesda’s most popular games. It was a day of justifiable gloating as both companies put on their biggest smiles and flexed their achievement.
While the companies behind Master Chief and the Doom Slayer shook their metaphorical hands, some gamers sat on the outskirts of the raging party, feeling less than enthused by the $7.5 billion acquisition. Exclusivity is a byproduct of capitalism, but that doesn’t keep people from fearing the ramifications of such a deal.
For some, the concern is how this plays into the threat of monopolization of third-party developers. Others, meanwhile, are afraid they won’t be able to play The Elder Scrolls VI on their PlayStation 5 or future Sony consoles.
In reality, though, the two companies have a right to celebrate. This acquisition is a monumental event that has safely secured a place in the history of gaming. Let’s reject the glass half empty perspective and instead appreciate that Bethesda’s exclusivity should inspire better games from both Sony and Microsoft while also advancing the game industry into a new service-oriented era.
Leading up to the acquisition PlayStation boasted a strong lineup of first-party games such as The Last of Us, God of War, Horizon Zero Dawn, and Ghost of Tsushima. PlayStation Studios had spent years developing a strong pedigree, setting a high bar for future games and competitors alike. By comparison, Microsoft rarely had a strong showing of exclusive games, especially in the most recent generation.
That factor, along with Bethesda being a major third-party publisher, caused the acquisition to send ripples across the entire industry. Bethesda has the backing of Xbox, which means huge titles like The Elder Scrolls and Fallout may be exclusive to their ecosystem. Not only that, Bethesda owns several talented studios responsible for games like Dishonored, Doom, and Wolfenstein. In essence, this means that Xbox’s first-party offerings just received a massive boost in profile and variety.
As such this puts Microsoft on something closer to equal ground with Sony’s backlog of fan-favorite, critically acclaimed games. Some Sony fans need to let go of their fanboy tendencies and stop being hypocritical, seeing as how the publisher they claim to love with such fervor has held good games hostage on Sony consoles for years.
Gamers go where their favorite games go. If one enjoys God of War, they’ll get a PlayStation 5. Conversely, if a gamer has a strong admiration for Fallout, they purchase Xbox Game Pass. Exclusivity is a necessary reality of a competitive business model and we must learn to make the best of it, not sit in our rooms and complain.
Now it’s true that some may not have the financial capability to buy an Xbox Series X for Fallout after they spent $500 on a PlayStation 5. This is a reasonable perturbation for the expensive hobby that is gaming. Luckily, Xbox has created an ecosystem that expands the bounds of exclusivity.
If Sony had somehow bought Bethesda, their games would be locked away in the PlayStation vault for years to come. Xbox, on the other hand, is pushing the industry forward with Xbox Game Pass and streaming, making gaming more accessible than ever.
Xbox is more than a console; it’s a platform that gives gamers, regardless of platform, an extended library of extraordinary and diverse games. Xbox Game Pass is available on every Xbox console and PC. It also has a surprisingly stable streaming platform that lets PlayStation owners and anyone else with Internet access play Halo, Gears of War, and the next Bethesda titles.
If streaming doesn’t live up to quality standards, then Microsoft offers another entry point with the Xbox Series S – otherwise known as the cheapest console on store shelves. Though its storage capacity leaves much to be desired, the Series S still delivers quality performance and allows access to all the current games. Bethesda exclusivity may be a scary proposition, but Xbox offers a great sense of accessibility that makes it a lot less absolute.
Additionally, the acquisition is a big win for Xbox Game Pass. The service recently added 20 Bethesda games, further strengthening its already expansive library. Just as Disney+ needed WandaVision, so too does Xbox Game Pass need its own exclusive content. Bethesda’s presence, then, could help the service gain subscribers and change the gaming landscape forever.
Xbox Game Pass is one of the best gaming experiments in recent years. It’s difficult to beat 300 games, including day one AAA releases, for $15 a month. As the service continues to dominate, more platforms will start accepting Game Pass integration and competing services will build their own Netflix of games, something which Sony has indicated they are interested in developing. A gaming landscape filled with variations on Xbox Game Pass may make this hobby a little cheaper for all.
In the same vein, competition has a habit of breeding innovation, a concept exemplified through the history of game console development. The PlayStation 3’s hardware made game development more difficult than necessary, to say nothing of its flawed online service. After getting beat by the competition during the seventh console generation, Sony regained its foothold with the PlayStation 4, ultimately surpassing the Xbox One. When someone stays on top for a while, they grow arrogant and lack substantial innovation.
Sometimes competition is needed to get the creative gears moving, a process that betters the game industry as a whole. PlayStation has been resting easy with their strong exclusive lineup, but now there is an equal playing field. If PlayStation wishes to compete, they must create new intellectual property, branch into different genres, and acquire more talent. It is our hope that the Bethesda acquisition will spur the process on, something that would be worthy of rejoicing and praise from the wider gaming community.
This would mean not only Sony’s games improving but Bethesda’s games as well. Its many studios will retain creative freedom while receiving the backing of Microsoft’s resources and finances. Long-promised changes like a new engine for Elder Scrolls and Fallout games are now more viable, along with the possibility of rumored projects like Fallout: New Vegas 2 seeing the light of day. With what they gain as part of this deal, Bethesda has a great opportunity here to improve and fine-tune its approach to making games, regardless of platform.
Superior games are only the beginning; the Bethesda acquisition has the potential to inspire good things for the industry as a whole. Instead of crying over something that has already happened, it’s more worthwhile to look at the reality of the situation and try to make the most of it.