Phil Spencer: Bethesda being part of Xbox is about delivering exclusive games 'where Game Pass exists'

Xbox Bethesda Image
Xbox Bethesda Image (Image credit: Microsoft)

What you need to know

  • A roundtable today focused on Bethesda becoming part of Xbox.
  • During the livestream, Head of Xbox Phil Spencer talked about exclusivity of games from Bethesda Softworks.
  • Spencer explained that there will be contractual obligations but that Bethesda is delivering exclusive games on platforms "where Game Pass exists."

During today's Xbox and Bethesda roundtable discussion, the topic of exclusivity around Bethesda Softworks games came up again. While again refraining from mentioning exact names, Head of Xbox Phil Spencer noted that there are certain contractual obligations for titles to still come to other platforms, undoubtedly referring to Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo, which are timed PS5 console exclusives.

Outside of these contractual exceptions, Spencer offered a statement that seems pretty clear moving ahead."...if you're an Xbox customer, the thing I want you to know is this is about delivering great exclusive games for you that ship on platforms where Game Pass exists, and that's our goal," Spencer said.

It's still not a definitive list but this does mean that if you're interested in playing everything from Bethesda Softworks in the future, you'll want to have an Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S or PC. All Bethesda games (outside of the aforementioned exceptions) will also launch day and date on Xbox Game Pass.

Samuel Tolbert

Samuel Tolbert is a freelance writer covering gaming news, previews, reviews, interviews and different aspects of the gaming industry, specifically focusing on Xbox and PC gaming on Windows Central. You can find him on Twitter @SamuelTolbert.

  • Good news. I don't think Microsoft needs to be Xbox exclusive to kick ass, having it on PC seems no brainer - keep it on steam too!
  • XBOX exclusive, yes; console exclusive no.
    They're no longer the same thing.
  • for Game Pass to work, you have to play through the Xbox client. Sure, they will sell the game on Steam (as well as the Microsoft Store). Win win for everyone.
  • 20 games tomorrow!
  • Honestly I don't think they were clear and in my opinion that's not great for their consumers, people want to clearly know what's happening before choosing between Xbox and Playstation. If their games are going to be exclusive then they should say "besides our contractual obligations, new Bethesda games are going to be exclusive for platforms where Gamepass is available" and that would be it, pretty simple with no space for confusion.
  • It's essentially what P3 said. I'm not even paraphrasing: "delivering [great] exclusive games [for you] that ship [on platforms] where Game Pass exists". If you're confused whether Gane Pass is on PlayStation or not: it's not.
  • That is still not that clear and there were more statements in the discussion that make this more confusing, like "Even in the future, there might be things that have either contractual things or legacy on different platforms that we'll go do,", this is not clear.
  • You can't really expect them to be that 'clear'. Reality is dynamic. This is as clear as they'll ever be on the subject. These are legendary studios with massive IP portfolios. They need some room to accommodate whatever future deals other platforms might propose to Xbox. It may not always be so clear cut.
  • To follow up with more detail according to Phil Spencer:
    "So obviously, I can't sit here and say every Bethesda game is exclusive [to Xbox platforms], because we know that's not true. There's contractual obligations that we're going to see through as we always do in every one of these instances. We have games that exist on other platforms, and we're going to go support those games on the platforms they're on. There's communities of players. We love those communities, and we'll continue to invest in them. And even in the future, there might be things that have either contractual things or legacy on different platforms that we'll go do. But. If you're an Xbox customer, the thing I want you to know is this is about delivering great, exclusive games for you that ship on platforms where Game Pass exists. And that's our goal—that's why we're doing this. That's the root of this partnership that we're building. The creative capability we will be able to bring to market for our Xbox customers is going to be the best it's ever been for Xbox after we're done here."
  • Basically, some existing franchises may appear on other consoles. Legendary are games that may have huge followings or mass appeal like
    Minecraft. But the exclusive games will be only on the platforms that support Xbox game pass. But, there may be cases where if Sony decides they want a piece of the exclusive pie, then they'll have to pay to play.
  • Sorry but it *is* clear.
    "Everywhere GAMEPASS is" is as clear as it gets.
    It is, like everything, subject to change but the marriage to GAMEPASS is unlikely to change.
    MS is telling Sony that if they want BETHESDA games on PS they need to allow GAMEPASS. Even if only by browser.
    So, how good is the PS5 browsing experience?
  • No it is not clear, I will repeat the same statemant that Phil made "Even in the future, there might be things that have either contractual things or LEGACY on different platforms that we'll go do,", this can be interpreted as older IPs that were available on other consoles will still go there. This satemant "...if you're an Xbox customer, the thing I want you to know is this is about delivering great exclusive games for you that ship on platforms where Game Pass exists, and that's our goal," doesn't mean that every game will be exclusive. There must be a reason why they just don't say "after finishing our contractual obrligations we will only make exclusives for platforms where gamepass is available", this is pretty much what Sony said after adquiring Insomniac while they were making a Facebook exclusive, Phil and his team know how to PR so this can't be an accident. The few years that I follow tech and gaming in general say me that when something isn't clear, it means that they are hiding something, Death Stranding on PC was one of them other example. I'm going to say this again, those guys learned how to PR, if they wanted to be clear they absolutely would, we wouldn't have these perfect statements that almost contradict each other but at the same time they really don't.
  • because E3 is where the hammer drops. You need surprises for the big show. Phil is being coy and I love it.
  • Phil is being coy because he is hiding something that may not be what fans want or because he still doesn't know what to do, not because he is waiting for E3, that's not how PR works.
  • Actually, that is exactly how PR works: you control the flow of information to maximize the impact of good news. So they announce general exclisivity first, then they hold an event to highlight this year's releases and later in the summer (E3?) they show actual footage. With strategic "leaks" along the way. That was how they handled the Series X|S announcements.
    They knew exactly what they were doing and how;when to reveal it. Ditto here: they were in talks with BETHESDA for two years and the deal was agreed to six months ago. Plenty of time to make a strategic roadmap factoring in the million subscriber a month growth of Game Pass and how adding EA PLAY and Bethesda woud grow it. Note that Spencer said existing *games* would be supported, not franchises.
    Skyrim is an existing game so it will conginue to be supported on PS. ES6 isn't. I woudn't hold my breath. STARFIELD is the only point to ponder and only if Sony may have faid BETHESDA a year or more ago. Which isn't typical.
  • No that's not how PR works, trickling out information is one thing, giving multiple vague statements that almost contradict each is another thing, this is only good PR if big games end up being multi-platform because that means that they are trying to trick people into buying a Xbox resulting in more sales, but if the big games end up being exclusive then that was terrible PR because less people would've bought a Xbox. What's happening is that they are leaving the door open to release the big games if necessary on Playstation.
  • What don't you understand in LEGACY?
    It's pretty clear, if there for instance MMO's that get expansion, patch, existing games that get DLCs or patches, serialized games, trilogies that are not finished, etc all those are the one he was talking about.... nothing is unclear about contractual ties and legacies.... he won't break any co.tract and won't cut the cord on existing communities regardless of platforms everything else is planned to ne exclusive to gamepass friendly platforms.... meaning anything from MS or running windows OS, and abale to use xcloud... so it could end up to ne on everything as long as the xbox it becomes xbox gamepass or xcloud compatible.... that's it, that's clear and there isn't anything hidden here... any new games, stand alone games that are not tied by contractual agreements won't release on consoles or devices that do no support gamepass period.... so yeah don't expect any new stand alone games like
    The Elder Scrolls 
    The Evil Within 
    To be on stadia PS or nintendo consoles right now...
    But who knows i could see MS announcing xcloud on switch... and then you'll be able to play them there if you have an xbox gamepass subscription.... see how clear it is
  • That's your interpretation of legacy, in the full statement they had already extensively talked about current titles, so for me they are talking about those titles and they used the words current titles instead of legacy titles, implying that they are different things. We already know from previous statements that some games would be exclusive and others won't, so there is no doubt that not all games going forward are going to be exclusive, now which are is the question. My whole point is that we don't know much about it because they never really said anything that wasn't vague, even the small part of the statement used in this article doesn't tell us anything that we didn't know.
  • There is a definition of legacy... and if there is a software company in the world that knows what legacy software is and what it means it's Microsoft.... Windows has been dealing with legacy support for almost 3 decades....
  • There isn't any interpretation to have... legacy support has a very clear meaning not something you interpret
  • I think the key is "contractual". Contracts is part of the business and is a revenue source and I myself can understand not being limit to exclusives
  • it's easy. If you want to play the game, play on Xbox, Windows, Android, iOS, or any other devices that will carry Game Pass. If Sony plays along, you can play the cloud-streamed version on Playstation too! Supporting every platform is better than supporting Sony.
  • That's not what he said though, his statements are all vague and consumers deserve transparency before purchasing a console (either PS5 or XSS/X)
  • It's all over the Internet and YouTube that Bethesda exclusives are only on Xbox game pass platforms. You're the only person that seems to not understand...
  • Read the full statement, it's not clear, first they talk about future "legacy" games not being exclusive and later they don't outright say that all Bethesda games or even that most are going to be exclusive, they just say that they bought them for Game pass, however Bethesda is made of 8 studios, where arguably only 3 (Bethesda itselfz machine games and ID Software) are going to make those big popular games, they can keep being multi-platform while the other 5 start making exclusives and that statement by Phil would still hold true. Being vague is never a good a sign, I hope that Microsoft actually makes all of their games exclusives, Sony needs competition and this makes it much closer.
  • It was clear to me when I heard him say it. You are getting way more worked up over this than is necessary.
  • I think that what Phil Spencer was saying is along the lines of new IP’s being exclusive to the Xbox but legacy IP’s being released on all platforms, which is awful, in my opinion, and a total disconnect with the userbase. Spider-Man wasn’t even allowed in the Xbox version of the Avengers game, yet a new Elder Scrolls needs to release on competing platforms because Skyrim did? I hope I’m reading too much into the legacy quote, but I’m pretty sure I heard it correctly.
  • Regardless of how PlayStation chooses to run their business, I'd rather Xbox have their own vision and full clarity of what they want to achieve. They should have their own game plan, and execute it very well. It should not be some kind of knee-jerk reaction to the way PlayStation operates. Orchestrate your own future. If exclusivity is necessary to achieve those goals then that is the way it must and should be. But not just because PlayStation does it. By doing so, you'd never be the leader, only an eternally reacting follower.
  • This has zero to do with being reactionary and everything to do with offering experiences that can’t be found elsewhere. Sony and Nintendo both get it. You aren’t getting Zelda on a PlayStation just as you aren’t getting Spider-Man on an Xbox, yet Doom can’t be used to bring fans to Xbox even though Microsoft is footing the bill? That makes no sense. I thought the goal is to generate new users into the Xbox ecosystem?
  • The XBOX ecosystem isn't just the console and PC.
    GAMEPASS is on android, browser, and soon TVs.
    Focus on GAMEPASS EXCLUSIVE and you'll see what Spencer is diplomatically saying.
  • He sounds like he's talking about the *online* communities.
    Not about single player discrete games.
  • That, and not pulling previously released Bethesda games from other platforms. Because you know... they own those now and could do it.
  • How is it legacy? A skyrim mod or new dlc being available everywhere skyrim is, is legacy support.... eleder scroll mmo c9ntinued support on all platform would be legacy.... but a new elder scroll stand alone game is not....
  • Phil's message was clear as day. Bethesda games are exclusive to Xboc, PC and Cloud. Legacy games like ESO, Fallout 76, Doom 3 VR, those timed exclusive games for PS5 and old PS3, PS4 games will still be sold on other platforms. Everything else, you need GP and the devices that supoort them, Xbox, PC, Cloud.
  • Hoping against hope isn't going to change the reality that the decision is based on the fact that ports cost time and money that is better spent doing DLC or other games. Legacy games are sunk costs, the things are already out and support costs are low enough to be bearable. It is also bssed on the fact that MS needs to maximize GAMEPASS adoption to maximize profits. Putting new single player releases on non-GP platforms undercuts that mission. MS is better served, long term (and possibly near term) by adding subscribers paying $120-plus each year than the whatever portion of $60 a PS sale might bring, maybe $20 per disk at launch, and dropping over time. The thing to remember is MS *needs* to make GAMEPASS big, fast. Not five years down the road but *now*. Because there *will* be other gaming subscription services and they won't be coming from little startups. Google flubbed Statia and most likely will be selling it but Amazon's LUNA has both good tech and a good business model for big software developers: Instead of doing their own service, the likes of UBISOFT, ACTIVISION, et al, can simply put their catalog of PC based games on LUNA as a "channel". And the other big gaming conglomerates aren't going to stand pat. Blizzard, Tencent, Embracer, and the other big boys will make their own moves soon enough. GAMEPASS needs a solid lead by then. That's the reall competition, not Sony. Not unless they buy Stadia. And odds are they'll be outbid. MS has what amounts to first mover advantage because they have the catalog and the subscriber base that can fund expansion; they need to do what Netflix did for video and Amazon did for ebooks, be "the firstest with the mostest" to get network effects draw in second and third wave adopters. They already have the first wave in hand, the avid gamer early adopters; now they need to grow the base to bring in enoigh revenue to probitably fund the development of one new AAA game a month. They won't get there in '21, probably not in '22, but definitely by '23! Which is roughly when the Series S will be hitting its stride at $200 and xCloud clients will be seeded on Smart TVs all over. (Imagine an xCloud client on Vizio 65" TVs selling for $459. Think that won't bring in a couple million subscribers all on its own?) Spencer made it clear: buying Zenimax is all about the billions to be made on GAMEPASS not the millions to be made on consoles. Maximizing exclusivity is what matters. The only game in question is STARFIELD, if it launches this year. Too far along to stop. But anything launching next year and beyond that isn't GAAS will be exclusive to platforms supporting gamepass. That's where the big money is coming from.
  • That's it... except who pays $120 a GP ultimate subscription for a year? I got like 4 years prepaid for that and could be adding more for less if i were scavenging deals every time there is one. But yeah you are right MS is moving to a Netflix business model for the xbox ecosystem... if you can get running an xbox game pass on your system of choice you'll be able to play any game they make going forward simple as that