Microsoft and Sony fired the opening shots of the next-gen console wars when they revealed the pricing of the new models. However, the real battle could be over platform exclusives and Microsoft just announced a major deal to acquire ZeniMax Media.
If you haven’t heard of ZeniMax itself, you’ve certainly heard of the games its studios create: id Software (Doom, Quake), Bethesda (The Elder Scrolls, Fallout), MachineGames (Wolfenstein), Arkane Studios (Dishonored, Prey).
The acquisition means that ZeniMax’s game roster will be added to the Xbox Game Pass for console and PC. Even upcoming games like the space-based RPG Starfield are included as well as games yet to be announced.
The Xbox Game pass costs $10 a month (for one platform). If you sign up, you get access to new releases from Xbox Game Studio (which now include the ZeniMax ones) on the day they are launched. The new Game Pass Ultimate plan ($15/month) covers console, PC and Android titles and includes EA Play for free, bringing in titles like Titanfall 2, FIFA 20, Battlefield and more.
The press releases from Microsoft and ZeniMax are mum on how this deal will affect other platforms, notably the PlayStation (e.g. Deathloop by Arkane is a timed exclusive for the PS5). For what it’s worth, Minecraft is available on every platform under the sun, even after the Microsoft acquisition.
Anyway, this is a $7.5 billion deal, second only to the $8.6 billion Tencent spent on Supercell back in 2016. The ZeniMax studios are joining Bungie (Halo), Rare (Sea of Thieves), Mojang (Minecraft), Ninja Theory (Hellblade), Playground Games (Forza), Obsidian Entertainment (The Outer Worlds) and many others.