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Phil Spencer says Xbox doesn't have to ship Bethesda games on other platforms

Skyrim Wallpaper
Skyrim Wallpaper (Image credit: Bethesda Softworks)

What you need to know

  • Head of Xbox Phil Spencer was interviewed by Kotaku.
  • In the interview, Spencer explained that Microsoft doesn't need to ship Bethesda games on other platforms to recoup its investment.
  • Microsoft previously confirmed all new Bethesda titles will launch day and date into Xbox Game Pass.

Xbox head and executive vice president of gaming at Microsoft Phil Spencer talked about Microsoft's next-gen strategy, its upcoming consoles and the acquisition of ZeniMax Media in an interview with Kotaku. When directly asked whether Microsoft could recoup its $7.5 billion investment without shipping The Elder Scrolls VI on PS5, Spencer responded "Yes."

He then provided a little more clarity while saying he didn't want to be flippant.

""This deal was not done to take games away from another player base like that. Nowhere in the documentation that we put together was: 'How do we keep other players from playing these games?' We want more people to be able to play games, not fewer people to be able to go play games. But I'll also say in the model—I'm just answering directly the question that you had—when I think about where people are going to be playing and the number of devices that we had, and we have xCloud and PC and Game Pass and our console base, I don't have to go ship those games on any other platform other than the platforms that we support in order to kind of make the deal work for us. Whatever that means."

While timed PS5 exclusives Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo are being honored as pre-existing deals, it seems more and more than if gamers will want to play new Bethesda games, they'll need to invest in the Xbox ecosystem to some extent.

Microsoft previously confirmed that all new Bethesda titles, including big upcoming games like Starfield, will launch day and date into Xbox Game Pass, while the existing library is also being added.

With the addition of Bethesda Softworks to the existing Xbox Game Studios family, a move that has been described as being based on relationships, there are now 23 first-party Xbox studios. Regardless of what happens with other platforms, it's clear players on Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S can look forward to a steady stream of games over the next generation.

Xbox Series X/S

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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.

40 Comments
  • Phil is tired of answering this question. I agree with him, they don't need Sony. They have PC, Xbox and that mobile platform to impact via Xcloud. So, there are many ways to play Microsoft Studio games.
  • Microsoft's track record has been pretty clear. If the title exists on another platform already, they put 100% behind supporting that other platform for that title. But Microsoft has also taken studios and locked them down to the Xbox ecosystem. Neither of these things are surprising. Anything that currently exists on PS4/5 will be supported by Xbox. But the next Doom, Fallout, and Elder Scrolls will be Xbox console exclusives and on PC. If Sony wants them on their platform, then they will need to approach the Microsoft studios like they do any other studio... with their checkbook in hand.
  • This is why Microsoft has already won.
  • This is such an obvious decision that I was impressed by the degree of denial of some game journalists to understand there was no way Microsoft wouldn't capitalize the acquisition of Bethesda by turning their upcoming releases exclusives. Except for Minecraft, which appears Microsoft wants to be more a platform than a title, there is just a few 2nd party games ported to Nintendo. Although I don't know the terms of the contract, I wouldn't rule out it was asked by the developer. In these cases, it is arguable that, unlike Sony, Nintendo occupies a slightly different niche and, thus, is not really a competitor to Xbox.
  • Because the prevalent idea is that Microsoft are push-overs and that they will always lose. Well take note now.
  • Literally nothing in this article says that Microdoft are making Bethesda exclusive, in fact Phil Spencer has always talked about not limiting gamers access to games, even before the Zenimax aquisition.
  • Yeah, he just said they don't have to support other platforms in order to recoup their investment. My guess is, they'll do timed exclusives, rather than permanent exclusives, for the most part.
  • 1- Minecraft was raking in big money everywhere and the coding was already done. No sense letting that investment go to waste. Ditto with existing games. SKYRIM and FALLOUT 4, ETC, are finished products bringing in money without much if any investment. No reason to pull them.
    2- CUPHEAD on NINTENDO was at the developer's request. It would've been bad form to deny them. 3- The question that Spencer answered was about future investment and his answer was honest and polite: MS doesn't need Sony customers. They're not doing it to be mean. It's just business. The less polite answer implied in his clarification is: they have better uses for the Bethesda staff than catering to people who choose not to be part of the XBOX ecosystem. One rule of business that isn't generally voiced is that some customers you *don't* want because they're more trouble than they're worth. You see it all the time with PC and Mobile developers. They see porting as worth less than developing a new game instead. It's just business.
  • Microsoft can put this all to rest (and have a massive marketing coup at the same time) by releasing a NATIVE PS5 xCloud client. That way, you CAN play all those xCloud games on EVERYTHING; Xbox, PC, Android, iOS, and on a PS5, as long as you PURCHASE IT for XBox. Two birds, one stone. Do it Microsoft. You know you want to......
  • The only way they can get a client on Playstation hardware is with the approval of Sony. Sony did allow EA Access and probably have a custom deal (royalty/license fees), however, all of those games would still have to be available via the store. 1. games would most probably have to be naively released on the PS hardware and available on the PS Store for sale
    2. if a streaming client is approval... fairly doubtful but for argument sake we'll play pretend to the last Ms consumer hold outs... the games via the streaming client would probably be limited to Microsoft published titles as Sony has PS Now.
    3. Either way to go to Nintendo or Sony platforms is going to require licensing/royalty fees for access.
    4. The masses don't really care about game streaming so all of this is moot anyway, imo. The time to move away from Microsoft pure consumer platforms were a long time. Microsoft will have to continue to move to other platforms/hardware to compete with other traditional publishers i.e. Steam, PS Store, Nintendo, etc. Xbox sales are almost non-existent now at a sub 2million rate i.e. Windows Phone numbers.
  • They don't care about selling hardware. Hardware is not the money maker in the game industry, software is. And service subscription is the true money maker in the software industry as a whole, and soon in the game industry too. It's already like that for Xbox. Why bank on selling subsidized hardware when they can sell software subscriptions to platforms beyond the ones they manufacture? Playstation Game Pass in five years.
  • Well, that is the problem which people have been saying out here for literally 10 years... Microsoft dumping hardware is basically the end game as the services are lock out of the hardware platforms. I'm confused by your point there. Its easy to say you want services but everyone has services... the services you are talking about already exists for instance on PS. Examples: - PS+ (online access plus free games a month)
    - PS Now (ability to download and play 800+ games or via streaming)
    - PS Remote Play (ability to play your PS via game streaming) Exactly what service is MS providing that doesn't already exist? <------ Is it possible that Sony/Nintendo allow Game Pass as Sony allows EA Access, sure... but Microsoft will have to natively put the games for sale in the PS Store and pay Sony/Nintendo royalty/access/licensing fee usage. Also, I doubt Sony allows non-published Microsoft in the service as Sony has PS Now. What you are talking about is EA Access, EA doesn't really talk about it much as it doesn't make much money. Microsoft doesn't want to provide the software, they want to be middleman, the problem is no additional middlemen are needed. What you guys are talking about already exists on PS i.e. PS Now and EA Access. There really isn't anything confusing about this... the close system holders are going to want payment, which beats the whole purpose of it as there would be two middlemen.
  • The service that MS would be providing in this case is a subscription to Bethesda games. Which Sony can't do. Also all those PS services are pretty irrelevant, nobody even talks about them. Sure, I could pay some bucks to play some PS games in my PC if I wanted to. But I never felt the need for that. And I doubt many people did.
  • But that was already addressed with EA Access. LOL Sony may or may not allow a subscription on their platform, but Microsoft is still going to have to pay. Most likely MS will have to port the game to PS, put it in the Store for sale... and pay Sony royalties on the subscription. The subscription will mostly not contain non-published MS games like EA Access. What you are talking about already exist... what Microsoft wants to do is be a middleman where no middleman is needed for third parties. PS+ is probably the biggest subscription game service there is, what are you talking about? The game streaming stuff nobody cares about because nobody cares about game streaming. That is the part that cracks me up about all xCloud articles and fake excitement on game streaming... nobody cares. EA Access is the third party equivalent of what Sony/Nintendo may allow... which will require payment of licensing and royalties - that isn't what Microsoft wants... they want to be middleman for third parties... that's simply not going to happen. Basically, Microsoft is going from a platform/hardware company in gaming to being a traditional publisher competing with EA, Rockstar, CD, etc. What I am saying is the reason why stupid Phil said Game Pass wouldn't be on Sony/Nintendo hardware... duh... there is no reason for an extra layer of middlemen.
  • "The game streaming stuff nobody cares about" The confidence with which you speak for everyone else marks you as someone who should not be listened to on anything. That Sony doesn't have the ability to compete on the game-streaming front is a very good reason for Sony fans to pretend that they don't care and, even more dishonestly, that no one else does either. That so many big players are putting so much effort and money into it seems to suggest otherwise. Excuse me if I consider the market analysis that they have all done to be of more value than your opinion. Apart from anything else, recent tech history should have taught us that people don't always know what they want until it is offered to them. Internet speeds are always going to be a limiting factor for game streaming but the more important game streaming becomes, the more pressure that will apply to increase internet speeds. If the relevant companies think that they can make money from game streaming, they'll be very keen to provide the bandwidth to make that possible.
  • Uh, you did hear that EA PLAY (the old EA ACCESS) is coming to GAME PASS for XBOX, PC, and xcloud starting Nov 10, right? At no extra cost?
  • No matter what device you use (PC, Xbox, phone, browser, fridge, rival consoles), as long as you buy/download/play the game from Xbox platform, MS can show those statistics to publishers. Sony don't have that privilege. And, games like FIFA, BF and other multiplayer (GamePass is giving people free goods and expansions even for f2p like PSO2 or Destiny2)? The more money (buy game, dlc, etc) and time (save data) an user and his/her friends spend, the stronger bind Xbox platform has on an user and his/her friends. This is the reason MS is pushing GamePass, for long term gain. Also, Virtual Machine + XPA + Win32 + xCloud == Mega Trend. This is the reason why Japanese publishers are starting to support Xbox. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PuuRdKzJb7U
    It's not a xCloud on Android. This is my temp Xbox Handheld solution (I also own Alienwares and Surfaces). Can PSNow work during flights?
  • I think PSNow should work on improving their inferior service or at least reduce the price.
  • If they didn't care about hardware then they wouldn't care about Bethesda on competitors systems. But clearly they do.
  • They don't. They want your (and your friends') time and money to Xbox platform.
    Unlike Atari~PS5, the Native Execution route , Xbox since 2016 is platform-as-a-service. No matter what device you use (PC, Xbox, phone, browser, fridge, rival consoles), as long as you buy/download/play the game from Xbox platform, MS can show those statistics to publishers. Sony don't have that privilege. PS4 with 100m WW unit sold, can only bring 3.2m WW users to Persona 5.
  • Does PS5 have a browser? Could xCloud be used in a browser like on the iPhone? IDK, just a real ???
  • Absolutely. This is the endgame. They can have the games, everybody can. But it's a Microsoft service and it's called Game Pass. And honestly, people should feel happy to be able to get Gane Pass. It's THAT good.
  • Well I hope one day everyone can play these games through Game Pass. Especially Playstation users.
  • Microsoft Game Pass on PlayStation? That would be intriguing.
  • that would solve a number of things. First, Microsoft wouldn't have to program a Playstation specific version of games, saving time and resources for their devs to maximize their Xbox and PC versions. Second, it would allow Playstation gamers to still play the games. Third, it would be more people and revenue in the Xbox ecosystem. And it would make the Playstation essentially an expensive thin client. But of course, Sony wouldn't allow it because they would essentially be producing an expensive box that put money in Microsoft's hands.
  • Microsoft should do whatever makes sense for their business. Why do they get pressure to share when Sony never does? All I hear from people whining about Xbox is that they don't have exclusives. Well now they do and should make PS players buy an Xbox or PC to play them, just like Xbox first folks have had to do to play PS exclusives. Or Sony can put their games on Xbox too. Otherwise I think all these games should only be for Xbox and PC
  • Exactly. As always, MS can't get away with doing half what their jerk competitors do. But watch them. This is a clean move. It's their money. Nobody is yelling for Sony for not releasing Spiderman on Xbox.
  • Ah, if only Microsoft was able to place a console, a mobile phone and an Internet communication device on the table! Get it? A console, a mobile phone, and an Internet communication device. Oh, what a missed opportunity. If this thing is to work, it will be Microsoft's biggest win and lose in one go.
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PuuRdKzJb7U
    Not by MS tho but...
  • Regardless of what MS does, the uncertainty in the marketplace benefits them: if you're a fan of Fallout, Elder Scrolls, Doom, Wolfenstein, or any of the other franchises they now own, you're thinking, "Hmm, that might come to PS5, but it also might not. The only way to be sure I'll have my game is to buy an Xbox." That will surely drive some sales over the next several months. It looks like the generation flipping will continue: PS2 > Xbox, Xbox 360 > PS3, PS4 > Xbox One. Based on pricing, exclusives (or possible exclusives), and power, I expect Xbox Series S/X > PS5. Perhaps PS6 > Xbox Next... if Sony has deep enough pockets to survive a down generation. They're not in anywhere near the financial shape of MS.
  • There probably won't BE a "PS6" or even more than one iteration of the Series X. The future is in direct streaming from the Cloud; i.e. xCloud. I know it's not quite here yet. xCloud is currently at the XBOX OG version of Xbox Live level of polish right now.
    Remember Xbox Live in 2002? No? Not quite old enough? It was pretty "basic" (i.e. sucked)
    It did not start to hit it's stride until 2005-6 midterm the life of the Xbox 360. Just wait a few years for MS to really rev up their massively successful (and highly profitable) Azure network with newer server-centric GPU hardware from companies like Nvidia and AMD.
    I predict in 4 years that most people will be playing some form of xCloud on their 4K HDR High-Refresh-rate TVs directly over an unlimited data connection, and continuing their games on their phones, or Surface-level devices (maybe not on Apple. They want ALL the revenue to themselves.)
    Hardware-base gaming will be some form of VR (see Star Wars Squadrons on VR for an early preview) but still with a Cloud-based component.
    The combination of Game Pass and xCloud is the future.
    It's called "Convergence" and is how the Smartphone subsumed the Camera, PDA, and flip-phone to be one device in your pocket.
    Same thing will happen with "gaming" as TVs get more and more like big-screen computers, and the ISPs are forced to allow unlimited data plans.
    Sony is in no shape financially (or structurally) to survive this kind of transition. Microsoft is, in fact, they will be leaders in it.
  • "I know it's not quite here yet. " Servers and new GPUs doesn't help the problems with game streaming i.e. latency. Internet latency meaning the whole internet is probably not much different than 20 years ago... its a number of hops and speed of light issue amount others. "Sony is in no shape financially (or structurally) to survive this kind of transition." What? Do tell? You mean they are fabricating the $30+ billion of cash or cash equivalent on their balance sheet? LOL The internet clearly does more harm than good when someone just makes up stuff all day long. So in about about 200 words I have figured out you don't know how to read a financial balance sheet and don't know much about game streaming or know what latency is (or why that is problem that will never really be solved in this context). "Hardware-base gaming will be some form of VR (see Star Wars Squadrons on VR for an early preview) but still with a Cloud-based component." VR game from streaming is a no go... any kind of latency will make the player sick let alone an average delay latency of 40-100ms. LOL If you plan on trying to VR game via streaming be prepared with a big bottle of aspirin and vomit bags.
  • Sony is a Consumer Device company. They need to sell physical product unique enough to compete with all the other hardware OEMs to survive. Microsoft is a software/services company. They don't need to sell any kind of physical device to survive. They can sell the services that run on other OEM's hardware (MS-DOS? Windows? They have made billions on those) and succeed. Sony can't do that.
    That is what Azure + xCloud + Game Pass is; SaaS (Software as a Service)
    Sony has nothing like that and never will because they don't have the data centers all over the world along with the SaaS to monetize them.
  • "They don't need to sell any kind of physical device to survive. " So? Neither does Adobe. What does that have to do with your horrible post? LOL "Sony has nothing like that and never will because they don't have the data centers all over the world along with the SaaS to monetize them." Well, Sony has PS Now and you can stream from your own PS hardware. But regardless, nobody cares about game streaming - countless services have existed for 10+ years. This is why you see Microsoft going to Steam, as nobody wants to be involved with the MS Store and Xbox hardware sales are bad at this point and continue to go down... I mean we're talking Windows Phone bad at this point sub 2m this year. Microsoft just isn't needed as a middleman, if they want to produce games as a publisher/developer nothing wrong with that.... as a middleman its basically over. If Microsoft wishes to sell software they are going to have to go to where the customers are, on that I would agree with you.... but the closed system devices the manufacturer is still in charge.
  • 😂 Sony uses MS Azure for their theoretical own game streaming. Which is no where as good as xCloud at least as of now.
    $30bn cash doesn't mean squat when your entire company net income is $6bn a year. Whereas MS net income is ~$9bn a quarter. I mean they are not even in the same ball park here. Not to mention they practically has PC in their ecosystem. They don't care where you will buy the game. I still think they will put even future games of Zenimax on PS for that 70 bucks a pop on which they will already earn ~$35 in hand profit. I'm not saying Sony can't be successful. There have been lot of incidents where $100bn company have outdone a $1.5T company many times in the past in particular sectors of business. Overall MS will always win here. Azure is bigger business then entire sony's worth. People have this feeling due to "general consensus mass media" that Azure is some kind of meh service. They are not. Amazon AWS ~45% mkt share
    Azure ~25% mkt share
    GCloud - ~15% mkt share Yes yes they are bigger than Google cloud already. Not to mention in fortune 500 almost half of them use Azure already. It is already increasing their financial numbers show that already. PS now is like size of ant(as of 2020) when it comes to datacenter locations around the world. Not to mention they will have pony up the money and give it to MS. So.... I don't think I need to tell you that who is making more money regardless. MS need to make console sales in order to be relevant at least for few more years. MS buying studios is solely because of they want to get the gaming revenue no matter where a game is sold for decades to come. They are building up their cushion just in case. I mean they have got the cash so they can do it. Overall stop comparing Sony and MS they are not even in the same ball park due to the size of enterprise. I won't consider PS now to even be competitor to xCloud is theoretical and not widespread. xCloud is available now in the most widespread manner relatively to others.
  • When it comes to Azure, MS and Amazon are looking at different customer bases.
    AWS gets the majority of its revenue from basic hosting services and are actively working to grow their appstack. Azure started out as a full stack and thebulk of their customers sign up for theor full suite of services so while Amz,on has more customers, hence the 45% market share, Azure makes more money per customer, which is why they are neck and neck in revenue.
    Revenue-wise, AWS brought in $11B in the first quarter this year, AZURE brought in $13B. Everybody else is far behind.
  • Jury is out for me on streaming. Cool tech for sure, but until mobile and home data caps aren't a thing people are literally limited to a certain amount of hours per month. 1TB streaming at 4k is something like 60 hours. Is that enough with more and more people streaming and working from home? I suspect not. Perhaps 5g will change the calculus
  • cloud gaming as the default is still a distant future. I still hit bandwidth caps regularly even without cloud gaming. there's no way I would depend on cloud gaming as the primary way to play. I love the idea of xCloud as a secondary option when I'm in the car or away from my Xbox and PC.
  • This is pretty much not telling anything that we didn't knew. Phil here spent alot of time saying nothing, it was basically "we don't want to take games away from other platforms, but if we end up doing it we really aren't taking it away because of Xcloud" This all depends on the success of Xbox and Xcloud.
  • The question is easy and basic: it's all about ROI. Longterm money out vs money in. Coding for PC and XBOX is coding one version for DirectX12.2. Coding for PS5 is coding a separate, distinct version. That involves first and foremost, *staff*. Personnel that could be working on another game to keep the GAMEPASS new releases rolling. Or DLC. Or remasters. So if the revenue from a PS5 version can exceed the value of redeploying that personnel to, say, bringing ELDER SCROLLS 6 or FALLOUT 5 a year earlier, then yes, they would do a PS5 port (a year later) as a timed release. But realistically, there is way more money in getting ES6 and FALLOUT 5 out earlier to the full XBOX ecosystem that even 100M Sony boxes can bring in. PC sales and GAMEPASS subscriptions are simply too much money to ignore. If you read the full Kotaku interview, MS is open to supporting other platforms, if they make it worth *their while*. But money alone isn't enough. What MS would want, neither Nintendo nor Sony can stomach.