Mi­crosoft pumps $7.5-B mus­cle to Xbox

Daily Tribune (Philippines) - - TECHTALKS -

SAN FRAN­CISCO (AFP) — Mi­crosoft on Mon­day an­nounced it will ac­quire Zen­i­Max Me­dia for $7.5 bil­lion, adding mus­cle to its Xbox arm ahead of a fierce bat­tle in the mar­ket for new gam­ing con­soles.

Zen­i­Max is the par­ent com­pany of Bethesda Soft­works, pub­lisher of pop­u­lar game fran­chises in­clud­ing Dis­hon­ored, Doom, Fall­out and Elder Scrolls.

“Bethesda brings an im­pres­sive port­fo­lio of games, tech­nol­ogy, tal­ent, as well as a track record of block­buster com­mer­cial suc­cess,” Mi­crosoft said in a state­ment.

The com­pany will pay for the ac­qui­si­tion in cash with the deal ex­pected to close by the mid-2021.

Zen­i­Max pur­chase seen to boost Xbox’s lim­ited ti­tles.

The deal comes as Mi­crosoft pre­pares to re­lease its Xbox Se­ries X in mid-Novem­ber, its first up­date to the gam­ing con­sole since 2013.

Sony’s ea­gerly awaited PlayS­ta­tion 5 will also launch in Novem­ber, set­ting up a hol­i­day-sea­son clash with Xbox as the gam­ing in­dus­try thrives dur­ing the pan­demic.

The com­pet­ing con­soles will be re­leased within two days of each other ahead of the Christ­mas rush, both aim­ing to cap­i­tal­ize on a rare bright spot in the eco­nomic car­nage caused by the coro­n­avirus cri­sis.

“Gam­ing is the most ex­pan­sive cat­e­gory in the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try, as peo­ple ev­ery­where turn to gam­ing to con­nect, so­cial­ize and play with their friends,” said Mi­crosoft chief ex­ec­u­tive Satya Nadella.

“Bethesda has seen suc­cess across every cat­e­gory of games, and to­gether, we will fur­ther our am­bi­tion to em­power the more than three bil­lion gamers world­wide.”

The ris­ing cloud

Buy­ing Zen­i­Max “checks a lot of boxes” for Mi­crosoft, ac­cord­ing to Baird an­a­lyst Colin Se­bas­tian. The ac­qui­si­tion strength­ens the Xbox games port­fo­lio as com­pe­ti­tion for peo­ple’s play time in­creases and boosts Mi­crosoft’s ef­forts to be the premier plat­form for cloud-based gam­ing, the an­a­lyst said in a note to in­vestors.

The deal should also free Bethesda to fo­cus on mak­ing hit games while Mi­crosoft tends to the work of host­ing ti­tles in the cloud for play across a va­ri­ety of de­vices. Xbox team head Phil Spencer has promised to bring top Bethesda ti­tles to the Xbox Game Pass ser­vice.

While it is pos­si­ble Bethesda may pub­lish games for PlayS­ta­tion, at least those al­ready in de­vel­op­ment, it is doubt­ful any ti­tles would be avail­able to com­pet­ing cloud gam­ing ser­vices, Se­bas­tian said in a note to in­vestors.

All about the games

Adding block­buster fran­chises from Zen­i­Max as ex­clu­sives would give the new gen­er­a­tion Xbox con­sole more ap­peal when it takes on the lat­est PlayS­ta­tion.

Pric­ing of the con­soles is sim­i­lar, and PlayS­ta­tion is thought to have an edge but play­ers are strongly driven by game con­tent.

“If you were go­ing to buy a PlayS­ta­tion to play Bethesda games, now you are not,” said Wed­bush an­a­lyst Michael Pachter.

Since most ma­jor video games are playable on per­sonal com­put­ers pow­ered by Win­dows soft­ware, that would be un­likely to change once Mi­crosoft owns Zen­i­Max and its stu­dios.

Con­soles, how­ever, are an­other mat­ter. PlayS­ta­tion fans de­voted to fran­chises such as Elder Scrolls or shooter Wolfen­stein could find them un­avail­able on the con­soles go­ing for­ward.

“If you want to play Elder Scrolls 6, you will have to buy Xbox,” Pachter said.

The ex­tent to which Zen­i­Max games will re­main avail­able on PlayS­ta­tion will de­pend on how the com­pany’s con­tracts are writ­ten with Sony.

“Gen­er­a­tions of gamers have been cap­ti­vated by the renowned fran­chises in the Bethesda port­fo­lio and will con­tinue to be so for years to come as part of Xbox,” Spencer said in an­nounc­ing the deal.

PHO­TO­GRAPH COUR­TESY OF ZEN­I­MAX

ELDER Scrolls is among the top games de­vel­oped by Zen­i­max.

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