With Bethesda, id Software, and more, Microsoft becomes an RPG powerhouse

Fallout 4
Fallout 4 (Image credit: Bethesda Softworks)

Microsoft has announced its acquisition of ZeniMax Media Inc., onboarding heavyweights in video game development and publishing, under its Xbox Game Studios umbrella. The historic deal brings id Software, Bethesda Game Studios, Arkane Studios, MachineGames, and more within the corporation, bolstering Microsoft's influence as a content powerhouse. It comes as it prepares to launch its next-generation Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S console preorders, intertwined with its Xbox Game Pass subscription service.

The deal with ZeniMax represents an inflection point for Microsoft, with far-reaching impact on the broader industry. It comes with a sizeable library of properties, from legendary role-playing series like The Elder Scrolls and Fallout, to iconic classics, Quake and Doom. With thousands of employees across over a dozen locations, Xbox Game Studios looks poised to become a creative titan over the years to come.

Microsoft has heavily invested in scaling the Xbox platform in recent years, accompanied by a steadily rising creative arm to match. It now enters the next console generation with two Xbox consoles, a growing PC presence with Windows-exclusive titles, and a recently-launched mobile cloud gaming platform. Its Xbox Game Pass subscription is now fundamental, deeply weaved within its offerings, with the company reporting over 10 million users in its FY20 Q3 earnings.

Xbox + Bethesda

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

The Xbox first-party output has witnessed a makeover in recent years, over doubling its studio lineup, with talent spanning numerous genres. But this newest deal has far-reaching consequences, with the potential to shift the perception of the Xbox lineup. With in-house creative output often overshadowed by market rival Sony, Microsoft now brings some of the biggest industry names under its wing.

Microsoft already has Obsidian Entertainment and inXile Entertainment, renowned for critically acclaimed role-playing games (RPGs), including recent projects like The Outer Worlds and Wasteland 3. The duo's past portfolio includes Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II, Fallout: New Vegas, The Bard's Tale, all earning their name in the role-playing hall of fame. A new Fable reboot is also in the making, backed by a dedicated second team at Playground Games.

ZeniMax only further pushes those strengths, fostering beloved names in the RPG space over the decades. Bethesda brings The Elder Scrolls and Fallout, both among the most prolific franchises in the genre. Arkane Studios packs acclaimed modern hits like Dishonored and Prey, which while not strictly adhering to the role-playing formula, feature shared signatures with past Bethesda-published titles.

Xbox Game Pass Booth

Source: Matt Brown / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Matt Brown / Windows Central)

But most importantly for Microsoft, this acquisition brings a wave of rich new single-player worlds to Xbox Game Pass. Microsoft's monthly subscription service has proven itself as an avenue to support such endeavors, providing studios with backing for recognized formulas, despite an industry love for recurring revenue streams. Bethesda, the studio famed for campaigns to "save" single-player experiences, may have found its safeguard with Microsoft.

With Microsoft continuing to feed its newest releases into Xbox Game Pass from launch, the service now proposes unmatched future value for RPG fans. The $10 monthly already includes Wasteland, Fable, Avowed, to name a few, with The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Starfield, and more future candidates. An already essential subscription continues to get better, shaping up as the Netflix for games Microsoft once set out to deliver.



Matt Brown

Matt Brown was formerly a Windows Central's Senior Editor, Xbox & PC, at Future. Following over seven years of professional consumer technology and gaming coverage, he’s focused on the world of Microsoft's gaming efforts. You can follow him on Twitter @mattjbrown.