Ahead of the launch of the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S console preorders this week, today, Microsoft decided to drop a bombshell commitment (opens in new tab) to the future of its gaming portfolio.
For $7.5 billion dollars, Microsoft has unveiled its acquisition of ZeniMax Media, the holding company of Bethesda Softworks, id Software, Arkane Studios, Machine Games, Tango Gameworks, and all of its properties. This gives Microsoft ownership of legendary, industry-leading IP including DOOM, Quake, The Evil Within, The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Dishonored, Prey, and dozens more, including future games like The Elder Scrolls VI, and Starfield.
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Xbox Series X is Microsoft's new flagship, as its most powerful console with over 12TF GPU performance and a custom SSD. It boasts up to 4K resolution and 120 FPS, full backward compatibility across four generations, and ray-tracing support.
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Experience next-gen gaming for less.
Microsoft serves the next-generation for less with its budget-friendly Xbox Series S. The console packs the same high-performance CPU and SSD technology as Xbox Series X, while scaling back the GPU and removing the disc drive.
The acquisition will send shockwaves through the industry and prove beyond any shadow of a doubt that Microsoft is deadly serious about its future in the gaming sector. With Project xCloud opening up Xbox gaming to markets that aren't necessarily interested in console gaming, this will beef up the catalogue tenfold with industry-leading games and household names, and also bring under its wing some of the industry's most talented and successful franchises and studios. It also brings some truly legendary, nostalgic IP into Microsoft's portfolio, which is a key advantage Nintendo and Sony both had over Microsoft's Xbox platform.
Microsoft has arguably struggled over the years to build up a lasting stable of franchises with broad appeal outside of Halo and Gears of War, save for more niche pillars like Age of Empires, Forza racing games, and Flight Simulator. Now, Xbox has the likes of DOOM, Wolfenstein, The Elder Scrolls, and Fallout exclusively to engage the masses, and placing them exclusively onto Xbox consoles, Windows 10, and Xbox Game Pass gives Microsoft's games catalogue some much, much needed meat.
ZeniMax's operations also have incredibly high monthly active users, with mobile titles like Fallout Shelter remaining incredibly popular, and The Elder Scrolls Online being among the biggest MMO-type games on the planet.
Interestingly, this also gives Microsoft ownership of some of ZeniMax's proprietary technology, including the Creation Engine, used by Bethesda to build truly massive worlds on a comparatively rapid cadence, and the id Tech engine, used in games like DOOM and RAGE 2. These are assets that would fit nicely into Microsoft's Azure Gamestack offering, potentially. Gamestack is a suite of tools and services that include analytics, live ops features, and middleware for building games, but up until now, they included no fully-fledged game engines.
ZeniMax's key studios are building massively anticipated titles including The Elder Scrolls VI, a mysterious sci-fi title known as Starfield, Wolfenstein III, and more. ZeniMax was also building timed exclusives for PlayStation 5, in the form of Deathloop and Tokyo: Ghostwire, which will now presumably come to Xbox as well. Microsoft will likely honor the commitment of those games to also come to PlayStation 5, similarly to how they honored commitments with The Outer Worlds after purchasing Obsidian.
Either way, the acquisition comes at a truly exciting time for Xbox, as it expands its gaming operations to incorporate mobile with Project xCloud Xbox Game Pass streaming, Windows 10 PC with Xbox Game Pass, and both the affordable end and the premium ends of the console market with the Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X respectively. The missing piece of the puzzle was always high-quality games with franchise potential. That missing piece is now, well and truly, accounted for.
The Xbox Series X/S preorders will go live tomorrow, on September 22, coming in at $299 for the 1440p-oriented Xbox Series S, and $499 for the powerhouse 4K-oriented Xbox Series X. Both consoles will be fully compatible with all of your best Xbox One accessories and your best Xbox One headset, as well as all of your existing best Xbox One games.
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Jez Corden is the Managing Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!