Microsoft Shelled Out $7.5 Billion Just So Sony Couldn’t Make One Bethesda Game a PS5 Exclusive

In the competitive console market, Microsoft made a bold move to make Starfield an Xbox exlusive title.

bethesda, microsoft, ps

SUMMARY

  • Microsoft's decision to keep Starfield exclusive to Xbox and PC highlights the competitive nature of the console wars in the modern day.
  • Original plans for Starfield allegedly included a multi-platform release, targeting PlayStation as a primary platform due to its market dominance at the time.
  • Microsoft’s recent moves suggest a shift towards becoming a software-first company, prioritizing Xbox Game Pass over hardware sales.
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Microsoft’s acquisition of ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Bethesda, was a strategic move driven by competitive pressures in the gaming industry. The potential of Starfield becoming a PlayStation exclusive was a significant catalyst for this $7.5 billion deal. Given its third-place position among consoles, this move was seen as essential for Xbox to remain competitive in the gaming market.

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According to Xbox chief Phil Spencer, Sony’s aggressive tactics, including paying for exclusivity deals with Bethesda games like Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo, prompted Microsoft to secure Bethesda’s entire portfolio.

The FTC v. Microsoft Trial Highlighted Some of Microsoft’s Strategies for Xbox

Microsoft's decision to make Starfield an Xbox exclusive for consoles.
The FTC v. Microsoft trial gave us some insight into the company’s decisions.

From this recap of Day 2 of the FTC v Microsoft trial, we can find insights into some of Microsoft’s ideas and decisions. Phil Spencer’s testimony during the FTC v. Microsoft hearing highlighted Microsoft’s position in the console market. As a third-place contender, Xbox needed to enhance its content ownership to remain viable. The acquisition of Bethesda was seen as a critical step to prevent further erosion of Xbox’s market share and to compete more effectively against Sony, which has a history of securing exclusivity deals to its advantage.

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Financial considerations also influenced the decision to acquire Bethesda. While allowing games like Starfield to be multi-platform could benefit Microsoft’s bottom line, the company prioritized Xbox and PC exclusivity. This approach aligns with Phil Spencer’s strategy of focusing on Xbox Game Pass and ensuring that major titles bolster the subscription service, even if it means sacrificing potential revenue from PlayStation sales.

The Exclusivity of Starfield and Other Potential Future Titles

Despite the exclusivity of Starfield and other titles, Microsoft has kept the future of some games ambiguous. Phil Spencer has hinted at the possibility of Elder Scrolls VI being an Xbox exclusive, but no definitive platform announcement has been made. This strategic ambiguity keeps options open while reinforcing Xbox’s competitive stance against Sony.

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Interestingly, there were originally plans for Starfield to be a multi-platform release. A former Bethesda 3D artist revealed that a PS5 version was in development before Microsoft’s acquisition. This indicates that Bethesda was initially targeting the PlayStation market, which was the best-selling console at the time. The acquisition abruptly shifted these plans, making Starfield an Xbox and PC exclusive.

Microsoft’s Struggle in the Console Race and Game Pass

Microsoft is lagging behind in the console race.
What could Microsoft have in plan for the future?

The financial implications of making Starfield a PlayStation exclusive were significant for Microsoft. By securing Bethesda’s content, Microsoft aimed to prevent Sony from gaining a competitive edge. This move reflects a broader strategy to ensure Xbox remains a key player in the gaming industry, especially as the company faces challenges in hardware sales and Game Pass subscriptions.

Microsoft’s acquisition strategy extends beyond Bethesda. The acquisition of Activision Blizzard further illustrates Microsoft’s commitment to competing with Sony by securing high-value content. This approach underscores the importance of exclusive content in maintaining a competitive edge in the gaming market. While Starfield may not have been the blockbuster hit Microsoft hoped for, its potential availability on PS5 could have resulted in a shift in the gaming industry and Microsoft’s competitive strategy.

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Written by Daniel Royte

Articles Published: 176

Daniel is a gamer through and through with a passion for gaming in his veins. His current adventures have taken him into the world of Elden Ring, Wuthering Waves, and Genshin Impact, amongst others.