By Timothy Geigner
Several weeks back, we discussed how Microsoft and its newly acquired property, Bethesda Softworks, were making seemingly conflicting statements on what the purchase of the studio meant for beloved franchises like Fallout and Elder Scrolls, among others. Concerns popped up immediately after the acquisition, with people wondering whether the next Fallout game would be siloed to the Xbox and/or PC, as opposed to showing up on other consoles, such as Sony’s PlayStation. Xbox’s Phil Spencer kicked the concern into overdrive by noting that he thought Microsoft could recoup its purchase price of Bethesda even if the studio’s games weren’t sold for the PlayStation. Todd Howard of Bethesda, however, said the studio is committed to making its games available across platforms, while also acknowledging such details with Microsoft hadn’t been ironed out.
And so the public was left wondering. Well, now Microsoft has once again commented publicly, this time stating that it doesn’t plan to restrict Bethesda games from other consoles, but would instead look to make those games “first and best” on the Xbox and PC.
Speaking at the Jeffries Interactive Entertainment Virtual Conference last Friday (as transcribed by Seeking Alpha), Stuart said directly that “in the long run… we don’t have intentions of just pulling all of Bethesda content out of Sony or Nintendo or otherwise. But what we want is we want that content, in the long run, to be either first or better or best or pick your differentiated experience, on our platforms.”
“That’s not a point about being exclusive,” Stuart continued. “That’s not a point about… adjusting timing or content or road map. But if you think about something like Game Pass, if it shows up best in Game Pass, that’s what we want to see, and we want to drive our Game Pass subscriber base through that Bethesda pipeline.”
This, frankly, clarifies nothing. Stating that perhaps games will be “first” on Microsoft’s platforms and then stating that it has nothing to do with timing of the release on other platforms is contradictory. If it’s “first” on one platform, it must therefore be at least “second” on others. Likewise, stating you want a game to be “best” on Microsoft platforms and then stating it has nothing to do with content is, again, contradictory. If not the content, what could possibly make a game better on one platform than the other.
It’s unclear why Microsoft is remaining so opaque about all of this, but it sure sounds like some version of either EPIC’s timed exclusives or Sony’s exclusive content for games. Both are controversial in their own rights, and likely not great for the gaming ecosystem as a whole, but at least both companies play it straight with their customers.
In this case, we all just have to wait and see how high a fence Microsoft does or does not want to put around these beloved game franchises.