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Phil Spencer says Bethesda teams ‘are going to be critical to Xbox’s progress’
“I can’t wait to get [the deal] closed so that we can start working like one company.”
Head of Xbox Phil Spencer has said he believes that Bethesda’s development teams will be “very, very critical” to the future of the platform holder.
Microsoft announced its intention to acquire ZeniMax Media and its game publisher Bethesda Softworks for $7.5 billion in September, with the deal expected to be completed in early 2021.
Discussing Xbox’s plans for the year in a new Xbox podcast, Spencer said he was excited to finally complete the acquisition “so that we can start working like one company.”
“I’m excited about 2021 and Bethesda is an important part of that,” he said.
“2021 is when we’ll get final approval. I feel really good about that: everything is on track. We’ll start then really getting to some of the planning that we can do with them. Right now we’re really hands-off with them as they continue to do the work that they’re doing, because we don’t own them yet.”
Reflecting on the deal’s surprise announcement last September, Spencer said he was glad to see the positive reaction from Xbox fans, “and probably more important to me right now is the Bethesda teams, because those teams are going to be very, very critical to our progress going forward,” he said.
“I can’t wait to get it closed so that we can start working like one company. I’m incredibly excited about Starfield and a lot of other things, some announced and some not announced that they’re working on. I just think they’re going to be an incredible addition to our studios.”
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Microsoft’s acquisition of ZeniMax Media will see Xbox Game Studios grow from 15 to 23 development teams.
Employing some 2,300 staff worldwide, Bethesda Softworks studios include Bethesda Game Studios (Fallout, Elder Scrolls), id Software (Doom), ZeniMax Online Studios (Elder Scrolls Online), Arkane (Dishonored, Prey), MachineGames (Wolfenstein), Tango Gameworks (The Evil Within), Alpha Dog, and Roundhouse Studios.
“When I think about our RPG capability with Obsidian, inXile, the work that Playground is doing which is now out there with Fable, and with what Bethesda can do… it’s massive capability,” Spencer said.
“I think about our FPS capability with Id, 343 and the work that we can do… it doubles the size of our first-party studios when Bethesda joins, which is pretty amazing to think about.”
He added: ”And geography: I think about where they are, which is an important thing because I want to have teams from different places in the world.”
Following the acquisition announcement, Spencer said Microsoft would honour existing PS5 exclusivity agreements Bethesda has in place for games like Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo.
However, Xbox’s chief financial officer Tim Stuart claimed in November that Microsoft wants future Bethesda games to be “either first or better or best” on Xbox platforms.
“What we’ll do in the long run is we don’t have intentions of just pulling all of Bethesda content out of Sony or Nintendo or otherwise,” Stuart said.
“But what we want is we want that content, in the long run, to be either first or better or best or pick your differentiated experience, on our platforms. We will want Bethesda content to show up the best as — on our platforms.
“Yes. That’s not a point about being exclusive. That’s not a point about we’re being — adjusting timing or content or road map. But if you think about something like Game Pass, if it shows up best in Game Pass, that’s what we want to see, and we want to drive our Game Pass subscriber base through that Bethesda pipeline.
“So again, I’m not announcing pulling content from platforms one way or the other,” Stuart continued. “But I suspect you’ll continue to see us shift towards a first or better or best approach on our platforms.”