Microsoft Acquirers Zenimax Media
I know, I know, I am pretty late to the party. This news came out a few weeks ago already. However, I have a reason for delaying my post. I wanted the information to sink in and not have a knee jerk reaction to this news.
I must admit this hit the internet out of nowhere.
Let us start with a little background about both companies.
Microsoft / XBOX
Unless you live under a rock, you pretty much know about Microsoft. They are primarily known for their Desktop Operation Systems called MIcrosoft WIndows.
In 2000, Microsoft announced that they were going to enter the gaming sphere a system called the XBOX. This was touted at the time a dedicated PC for gaming. However, not everyone was optimistic about this endeavour. Microsoft has a tendency of not being great when they move away from their core businesses, Windows and Office. Everything else is iffy at best.
They have ventured in an iPod competitor with the Zune and that flopped. They even doused their feet into the phone business by purchasing part of Nokia and making the Microsoft Phone. That project ended badly for both companies. They also tried to compete with Google for ads when they purchased, aQuantive. Even though some of these came out after the XBOX was announced, there was always the question, will Microsoft be able to compete with Nintendo, Playstation and Dreamcast?
I owned on original XBOX and I have to admit for the time, it was pretty sweet. Although the Playstation 2 was still way more popular, XBOX was able to get a niche audience. Also, one thing that helped with the system's popularity was that XBOX could be modded easily. By the end of the generation, XBOX was not being laughed at, but people were starting to take notice.
Then they announced the XBOX 360. When it launched it had a year over the Playstation 3. It had some good buzz and the graphics were drastically improved from the original. Although, the 360 itself did have some problems. The system would have a tendency to overheat and have the console display a red ring around the power button. This was nicknamed the red ring of death. This was a play on the Microsoft Windows crash screen called the Blue Screen of Death. Even with these hurdles, the system sold well. Microsoft had a very good repair program that would change these overheated systems and fix them. In any case, the games for the platform were awesome and for most of the generation the console sold very well. Playstation gave a really nice push towards the end of the generation and had slightly more consoles sold. However, most players would concede that XBOX won this generation.
Then came the debacle that was the XBOX One release. The release was plagued with bad press and bad PR. One of the biggest blunders of the XBOX One launch was the price. The original system was sold for 599$ which was 100$ more expensive than their competitor. The reason for the price was because it came bundled with the Kinect which no one used. So the system was known for being overpriced. It is as if the Playstation and XBOX switched places during this generation.
There were also rumours that you could not have your XBOX offline to play games, which Microsoft confirmed and due to the backlash denied. They positioned this console as being the everything in your living room. It was to be your gaming console, media player and entertainment center. That messaging fell flat and sales were flat as well.
In addition to the above, MS had very little first party games for the console and many players have complained about that and often went to Playstation for exclusive gaming needs. Many would say in terms of games, XBOX has lost this generation. However, what they lacked in games, they excelled with services. With XBOX Games with Gold (started with XBOX 360), you can get very good deals and also get 4 free games a month. Two games are from older generations (OG XBOX and XBOX 360) and two that are current gen.
Then they released Gamepass. You can think of this service as the Netflix of gaming. You can get a good selection of games at your disposal for either 10$ a month for console only or 16$ for PC and console. This was an amazing idea but it always lacked first party Microsoft games.
Then they announced their newest offerings the XBOX Series X and its slightly less powered sibling the XBOX Series S. They are banking in a lot with the services in this generation and a lot of first party games. I must add that the next generation first party games have not yet fully materialized. Time will tell if this is a bluff or true. Halo Infinite has already been postponed until 2021.
To make first party games a focus, in 2018 they started to go on a buying rampage. They snapped up many studios. In fact, they went from having 5 gaming studios to 23. That is quite impressive. This has been capped off with the recent acquisition of ZeniMax Media, which includes Bathesda Softworks.
I know I did not go through all the details of every generation but you get a sense of what MS has done in the last 20 years.
Zenimax has been around for a very long time. In fact, it has been over 20 years since this company was established by Christopher Weaver and Robert A. Altman. However, they have had quite the road since then.
They are probably best known for their lawsuit against Oculus in 2014 which is now owned by Facebook. They were claiming that, Oculus was using intellectual property to make their product. Of course this was linked to John Carmack and stating that he stole code and ideas before going to Oculus. Obviously Oculus denied these claims.
According to Lexology.com
ZeniMax won the suit against Oculus and Palmer Luckey in U.S. District Court in Texas, later settling privately for an amount likely in the millions of dollars.
Under ZeniMax, you can find the following studios under their banner
Bathesda Softworks (Fallout 3, Fallout 4, Elder Scrolls)
Arkane Studios (Prey, Dishonored, Wolfenstein)
Id Software (Doom, Quake, Rage)
Machine Games (Wolfenstein: The New Order, Quake: Dimension of the Past)
ZeniMax Online (Fallout 76, Elder Scrolls Online, Commander Keen)
Alpha Dog Games (Wraithborne)
Roundhouse Studios (Rune, Lost Within, The Quiet Man)
There are a lot of games in here and some very heavy hitters like the Fallout franchise, Wolfenstein and Doom, just to name a few. Again this is just a snapshot of what ZeniMax is, but you can read much more on their wikipedia page.
Now the age old question, do I think that this was a good move for Microsoft or not? The short answer is yes. Let me explain.
Regardless of the image of Bathesda in the last few years, you cannot deny that they are one of the biggest name in the gaming business. They have created some awesome RPG games with Elder Scrolls and the Fallout series. That does not even count all the other IP's (Intellectual Properties) that they have for other games that they publish. These include Doom, Quake, and Wolfenstein just to name a few.
In recent years, especially with the release of Fallout 76, Bathesda's star is not shining as much as it once was. The reputation was tarnished just a little bit. Having said that, they are still a big name in gaming. There is still a lot of good programmers and designers here. I think that Microsoft really saw the potential and a lot of that 7.5$ Billion price tag was the library of IP's and the vision that Bathesda has. They have a reputation for making some of the best western RPG's.
I have seen on some Facebook and Twitter posts that some players are angry cause this makes the number of games that could be played cross platform disappear. They say that it is not fair. However, I do not know why.
From most people that I see, the days of owning only one console is over. Most console fans buy both an XBOX or a Playstation during the lifecycle of the generation. Yes, one might sell more units than the other one, but in the end, the machines still get sold. So the argument that it limits the gameplay on platform is true in theory but not really in practicality.
One advantage is also with GamePass. I am a huge proponent of GamePass. I have been using it for about 2 years now. even without some first party exclusives, GamePass is still worth the 10$ CAD that I spend a month on the service. The way I see it, it is the new way of renting games. Remember, back in the day renting an NES or SEGA Genesis from the video store. Then a few days later you bring it back. If you liked it, chances are you would buy it eventually or ask for it at your birthday or for Christmas. GamePass is no different. I have played many games on the platform. In some cases, I loved them so much that I bought them. For example, I played Metro for the first time on the service. I loved it so much that I bought the bundle afterwards. It was the same with The Outer Worlds. I loved the game so much that I bought it after that I played it. In the case when the game sucks, nothing is lost. You played it and you do not have to buy it.
Having said that, with Bathesda in the mix, as of the writing of this post, they have already put Doom Eternal on the service. I am sure that there will be more in the future, like Skyrim and older Elder Scroll games. Oblivion is already on the service. Even better is that all first party games are going to be on the service as of the release date. There is no reason to pre-order anymore. You can play the game and if you like it, you buy it. I really like that.
Microsoft has stated that they want you to be able to play the game on as many platforms as possible. This is possible with the xCloud service. You can play as of now only on Android, but eventually I hope on iOS as well. So you can play your games on the fly which is awesome.
Another thing that I did not hear many people talk about is that Microsoft is not the Microsoft of old. For example, when they bought companies, like Nokia, they tried to impose their culture on that company. In recent years, Microsoft has taken more of a hands off approach. LinkedIn runs like its own entity. The average user would not know that they are owned by Mircosoft. So I think with all these new studios, they will have time to breath and they will have a budget that only MS can provide.
So in the end, I think this can be good for both Bathesda and Microsoft. Bathesda can rebuild their reputation while Microsoft is becoming a beast in the gaming space. Now keep in mind, as I said before they have not shown anything new yet and that is the biggest negative on XBOX. However, once the games start coming, there will be an avalanche.
So what do you think, did you like this acquisition or not? Let us know you thoughts below.