Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer: Microsoft heard Starfield might skip Xbox before buying Bethesda

What you need to know

  • During the FTC vs. Microsoft hearing, Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer was being cross-examined by FTC counsel. 
  • As part of the cross-examination, Spencer talked about how Microsoft heard Starfield might be skipping Xbox, presumably as a PS5 timed console exclusive. 
  • Two other ZeniMax Media titles, Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo, were already signed as PS5 console exclusives at the time. 
  • According to Spencer, hearing this information was part of Microsoft’s decision to purchase ZeniMax Media.

More information is coming out of the FTC vs. Microsoft Corp hearing, which is now on its second day.

As part of the hearing, FTC counsel cross-examined Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer, who testified that Microsoft heard Starfield was going to skip Xbox. Presumably, this would’ve been as part of a PS5 timed exclusivity deal, similar to the deal PlayStation signed for Arkane Lyon’s Deathloop and Tango Gameworks’ Ghostwire: Tokyo. 

While this technically isn’t a hard confirmation of the discussions, it certainly lines up with information heard previously by some journalists, including Imran Khan. 

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Spencer noted that hearing this discussion was taking place was part of the reason Microsoft decided to act and gain more first-party content. Microsoft announced the acquisition of ZeniMax Media in September 2020, a deal that finalized in March 2021 for $8.1 billion, adding Bethesda Game Studios and the rest of ZeniMax Media to Microsoft’s first-party Xbox content. 

Starfield is currently slated to launch exclusively on Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Windows PC, and Xbox Game Pass on Sep. 6, 2023. 

Windows Central’s take

While it still technically hasn’t been “confirmed” this backs up what Imran Khan (a great journalist) previously heard, and adds insight into Microsoft’s strategy in 2020 to acquire more first-party studios and IP. 

I’ve also heard from a couple of sources that one of the reasons a deal to sign Starfield as a PS5 console exclusive didn’t pan out — or rather, wasn’t reached before Microsoft reached a deal to buy ZeniMax Media — was directly because of game director Todd Howard, who wasn’t keen on the game having PS5 exclusivity. 

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