Microsoft splashes billions on Bethesda

Samuel Mungadze
By Samuel Mungadze, Africa editor
Johannesburg, 11 Mar 2021
Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft.
Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft.

Microsoft has spent $7.5 billion to acquire video game publisher Bethesda, a deal which will reinforce the software giant’s aggressive push in the gaming industry.

The technology company has officially completed the acquisition of ZeniMax, parent company of Bethesda Softworks, which gives it control of eight development studios – Bethesda Game Studios, id Software, ZeniMax Online Studios, Arkane, MachineGames, Tango Gameworks, Alpha Dog and Roundhouse Studios.

Microsoft has, in recent months, shown increased gaming interest, buoyed by the success of the Xbox Series X and Series S, and has been on a major hunt for new investments in the gaming industry.

Xbox Live has more than 100 million monthly active users, while Game Pass now has 18 million subscribers. Microsoft’s gaming unit surpassed $5 billion in revenue for the first time in the second quarter ended December. The company aims to reach the world’s three billion gamers.

At the time, CEO Satya Nadella said: “We are transforming how games are distributed, played and viewed, bringing cloud gaming in Game Pass to iOS devices and Windows PCs over the next few months.”

Announcing the completion of the Bethesda takeover, Microsoft said: “Now that everything is official, we can begin working together to deliver more great games to everyone.”

Microsoft head of Xbox Phil Spencer comments: “I’ve been inspired and motivated by the creativity, insight and community-first approach of the talented people at Bethesda. Our goal is to give these teams the best foundation for doing their greatest work and to learn from them as we continue to build Xbox into an inclusive platform for all players.

“This is the next step in building an industry-leading first-party studios team, a commitment we have to our Xbox community. With the addition of the Bethesda creative teams, gamers should know that Xbox consoles, PCs and Game Pass will be the best place to experience new Bethesda games, including some new titles in the future that will be exclusive to Xbox and PC players.”

Furthermore, he said: “It’s vitally important that Bethesda continues making games the way it always has. We look forward to empowering Bethesda’s creative teams to reach even more players around the world, helping make future Bethesda titles the biggest and most popular games in their history. Xbox and Bethesda have long shared a common vision for the future of gaming. Both as fans and as creators, Bethesda understands the potential of Xbox Game Pass.”

The Microsoft Bethesda deal has since been approved by the European Commission, under European Union merger regulations.

“The commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns, given the combined entity's limited market position upstream and the presence of strong downstream competitors in the distribution of video games,” said the European Commission.