$7.5 billion cash deal for game maker’s parent, ZeniMax Media, expands software giant’s growing gaming business profile.
Microsoft this morning has just announced plans to acquire ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Bethesda Softworks, one of the largest, privately held game developers and publishers in the world. The game studio, which publishes a number of best-selling gaming franchises including The Elder Scrolls and Fallout, brings to Microsoft and its Xbox platform an impressive portfolio of games, technology, talent, as well as a track record of blockbuster commercial success. Under the terms of the agreement, Microsoft will acquire ZeniMax Media for $7.5 billion in cash. The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and completion of regulatory review and is expected to close in the second half of fiscal year 2021.
The software giant’s gaming plans include expansion of their cloud-gaming service, Xbox Game Pass, which boasts over 15 million subscribers. With the addition of Bethesda, Microsoft will grow its creative studio team from 15 to 23. Microsoft notes it intends to bring future Bethesda games into Xbox Game Pass the same day they launch on Xbox or PC, such as Starfield, the highly anticipated new space epic currently in development.
“Gaming is the most expansive category in the entertainment industry, as people everywhere turn to gaming to connect, socialize and play with their friends,” said Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft. “Quality differentiated content is the engine behind the growth and value of Xbox Game Pass—from Minecraft to Flight Simulator. As a proven game developer and publisher, Bethesda has seen success across every category of games, and together, we will further our ambition to empower the more than three billion gamers worldwide.”
“This is an awesome time to be an Xbox fan. In the last 10 days alone, we’ve released details on our two new consoles which go on pre-order tomorrow, launched cloud gaming in Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, and now we’re making another investment in the most critical part of our strategy: the games,” said Phil Spencer, executive vice president, Gaming at Microsoft. “Generations of gamers have been captivated by the renowned franchises in the Bethesda portfolio and will continue to be so for years to come as part of Xbox.”
The planned acquisition includes publishing offices and development studios spanning the globe with over 2,300 employees, including Bethesda Softworks, Bethesda Game Studios, id Software, ZeniMax Online Studios, Arkane, MachineGames, Tango Gameworks, Alpha Dog, and Roundhouse Studios. Bethesda’s franchises include The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, DOOM, Quake, Wolfenstein, and Dishonored, among others.
According to Peter Hines, Bethesda’s SVP, Global Marketing and Communications, the sale “allows us to make even better games going forward.” “Microsoft is an incredible partner and offers access to resources that will make us a better publisher and developer,” he continued. “We believe that means better games for you to play. Simply put - we believe that change is an important part of getting better. We believe in pushing ourselves to be better. To innovate. To grow.”
Bethesda parent company ZeniMax Media was founded in 1999 by Chairman and CEO Robert A. Altman; Bethesda’s structure and leadership will remain in place.
“This is a thrilling day for this company, our employees, and our fans. We have enjoyed a close partnership with Microsoft for decades, and this deal is a natural progression of those years working together,” said Altman. “The big winners today are our fans. We are continuing to develop our slate of AAA games, but now with Microsoft’s scale and entire Game Stack, our games can only get better.”
Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.