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Xbox boss says Microsoft bought Bethesda to prevent Starfield being PlayStation-exclusive

Katherine Sidnell

Published 
| Last updated 

Xbox boss says Microsoft bought Bethesda to prevent Starfield being PlayStation-exclusive

Featured Image Credit: Bethesda

An Xbox exec has revealed that Microsoft bought Bethesda to prevent the game from becoming exclusive to Sony’s PlayStation.

Phil Spencer made the admission during a hearing for the Federal Trade Commission, with him defending the proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard.

During the court proceeding, the CEO of Microsoft Gaming also discussed the brand’s reason for purchasing ZeniMax Media – the holding company that owns Bethesda Softworks.

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Microsoft previously bought Bethesda's parent company, ZeniMax. Credit: Bethesda
Microsoft previously bought Bethesda's parent company, ZeniMax. Credit: Bethesda

The tense legal battle began last year, when Microsoft announced they intended to purchase Activision Blizzard for an eye-watering $68.7 billion (£53.5b).

Concerned about how the gaming market could be affected by the acquisition, the US Federal Trade Commission is now legally challenging the deal.

With Microsoft needing to finalise the deal by July 18, the five-day court case will be a tense time for the tech firm who face a $3 billion (£2.3b) break-up fee if they can’t reach an agreement with Activision Blizzard in time.

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During the proceeding, Phil Spencer spoke about how the company previously bought ZeniMax Media – the parent company behind Bethesda Softworks.

Purchased as part of a $7.5 billion deal (£5.9b), the gaming company has produced some of the biggest games on the market, including the Fallout franchise and the Elder Scrolls.

Spencer then explained how exclusivity had been another major factor in the deal, saying that Microsoft had to ‘secure content to remain viable in the business’.

Several trade commissions are currently investigating Micrsoft's deal. Credit: Bethesda
Several trade commissions are currently investigating Micrsoft's deal. Credit: Bethesda
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At the time, the computing company had been concerned that Bethesda’s game Starfield would not be available for Xbox immediately.

Previously, the gaming firm had signed a two-year deal with Sony, meaning that two games wouldn’t be released on the competitor for over a year.

“When we acquired ZeniMax one of the impetus for that is that Sony had done a deal for Deathloop and Ghostwire... to pay Bethesda to not ship those games on Xbox,” Spencer explained to the court.

Concerned about being forced out of the market due to such deals, Microsoft and Xbox were eager to avoid exclusivity issues with future Bethesda releases and purchased the parent company.

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He added: “…so the discussion about Starfield when we heard that Starfield was potentially also going to end up skipping Xbox, we can’t be in a position as a third-place console where we fall further behind on our content ownership so we’ve had to secure content to remain viable in the business.”

The 55-year-old added that releasing on both consoles still resulted in their competitor, Sony, gaining better results – as much as 30 per cent in some cases.

“We try to compete, but as I said, over the last 20 years we've failed to do that effectively," he revealed – with some later citing this as confirmation that the console wars were over.

Currently, PlayStation leads the market with Nintendo’s Switch coming in second.

Topics: Technology, Microsoft, Money, PlayStation, Sony, US News, Xbox, Gaming

Katherine Sidnell
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