By March 5, 2021, EU antitrust regulators will decide whether to clear Microsoft’s $7.5 billion acquisition of ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Bethesda, ID Software and Arkane Studios. Microsoft requested European Commission approval for the deal on January 29. The EU competition enforcer can clear the deal with or without concessions during its preliminary review or it can open a full-scale investigation if it has serious concerns.
Microsoft first announced ZeniMax's acquisition, all the way back in September 2020, to strengthen its position against Sony's ever-growing arsenal of first-party studios that have created masterpieces like God of War and Ghost of Tsushima. While Microsoft enjoys the position of lead opposition in the console market and a clear majority in the PC gaming market, its position in the console market is being eaten away by Sony's exclusives.
Although no details were published when Microsoft first announced ZeniMax's acquisition, there have been a number of speculations. Now that the deal will be closed by March 5, the consumer level details will soon follow.
The first and most expected move is the arrival of Zenimax's games on Xbox Game Pass, Microsoft's video game subscription service for Xbox and PC. So players can expect to see the likes of Fallout 4, Skyrim and Doom coming to Xbox Game Pass soon.
Next up is the more complex issue over exclusivity.
Once the acquisition deal is closed, ZeniMax and its subsidiaries will become Microsoft's first-party studios. Historically speaking, first-party studios develop games for their parent company only. Hence, it's safe to assume that few of the most beloved franchises like The Elder Scrolls will skip PlayStation. The only exemption to this assumption is Deathloop, an upcoming game by Arkane and Bethesda that will be PS5 exclusive for a year and then drop on PC, skipping out on Xbox Series S/X. The exclusivity deal was signed before the acquisition, so Deathloop might as well be the last Bethesda game on Playstation.
The complete details of the acquisition, along with the exclusivity positions of upcoming games, will be made public shortly after the deal is closed.
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