Just one day after the opening of pre-orders for Xbox series s e Xbox Series X, like a real bolt from the blue, Microsoft has announced that it has purchased Zenimax Media, actually coming into possession of eight studies, including Bethesda Games Studios, Arkane e Id Software and consequently moving from 15 to 23 first parties in his stable, an unprecedented acquisition. Jason Schreier, a well-known journalist and insider who anticipated the surprising news by a few minutes, informs us that the deal was worth a whopping 7,5 billion dollars, a figure that beats all records within the media, for one of the most important events in the entire history of the gaming industry. After the initial shock and disbelief, many questions have opened up about it and not all the answers effectively dispel the legitimate doubts that the public and critics are asking themselves at this moment. What is certain today is the fact that we are faced with an unprecedented event that will inevitably impact considerably, especially in the long term, on the balance of the next generation of consoles, and beyond. There are various aspects to consider, however, some not immediately visible and not all closely linked to the “mere” discourse of the console war, although it is in fact the immediately visible one and, without a doubt, the one that attracts the most attention. What happened yesterday further underlines the mentality and philosophy of the gaming division of the Redmond house and at the same time demonstrates how suddenly the giant managed to go from a limp and unsteady situation to a diametrically opposite position.
It seems absurd today to think back to Microsoft two or three years ago in the gaming sector, in such a precarious position created following the disastrous launch of Xbox One, and to the constant medium-low level communication, as to seem really close to closing. As much as Phil Spencer appeared more than determined to bring the Xbox brand back to the dust, the chances of a really clear change seemed very pale indeed. Something began to move with the presentation of the Game Pass and with the inclusion of many titles presented exclusively on their stages, formalizing the intention of absolutely not wanting to break away from the video game market. Yet, despite the good rise made in recent years after the resounding thud of the beginning of the generation, it was unthinkable to expect an announcement of this type. First of all, after having conspicuously invested in the Game Pass, the true workhorse of Xbox that in the next-gen will be supported by more and more third-party titles since day one, it was reasonable to expect that Microsoft's wallet had already given bottom to a huge slice. of the resources available for the specific division concerned. Furthermore, having used the summer period to present the Series S and Series X offer in detail and being closer and closer to launch, it was already difficult to expect surprises in itself. less than ever of this caliber.
This is not a simple acquisition, and not only for the obvious unparalleled economic outlay, but a move that has a transversal impact on the market ecosystem. Having the entire Bethesda stable at your disposal and making it your own means having on your hands not only first-rate titles and brands such as The Elder Scrolls e DOOM but also, and above all, to have exceptionally varied teams, with titles that can potentially cover every genre and, not to forget, the high appreciation of gamers, from the most casual to hardcore audiences. It is also a question of having among your ranks the artistic flair of some of the most important personalities in the industry from Shinji Mikami to Todd Howard, an aspect that cannot and must not take a back seat. Last, but not least, the aspect that provides again the service provided by the Game Pass, which will bring every single title of the studies acquired yesterday, already present from day one at no additional cost. Series S comes out incredibly reinforced by this announcement, much more than its big sister, and the combination of the small next-gen console and the Game Pass becomes a purchase more and more palatable, if not essential, for a gargantuan group of players.
Change the rules
Without slipping into trivial teenage squabbles, the competition towards PlayStation 5 it cannot remain undisputed or not be seen as one of the central points of this agreement. After the sudden change of direction of Sony shown during its latest media event, which has moved from a position that it says is very convinced in the preservation of the generations of consoles and the potential of titles designed ad hoc exclusively for new machines to a reality clearly more “transgenerational”, the gap between these two industry heavyweights no longer seems so insurmountable, quite the opposite. In these cases, especially in this chance, in fact, the discussion cannot be reduced to mere terms of product exclusivity. If to date Microsoft's words, which specify that future Bethesda games will certainly come out on PC and on the Xbox family but will evaluate "case by case" the landing on other consoles, can be interpreted, even according to basic difficult market laws. to be ignored, with the fact that the most famous and "important" brands will remain multi-platform but some necessary clarifications must still be made in this regard. First of all, Microsoft could decide at any time to keep some blockbuster production in store to be exploited as a real killer application to be kept as exclusive for its services and at the same time, put a period of exclusivity temporary on a particularly appetizing title. As specified above, in fact, the times and ways in which the games will be distributed remain shrouded in mystery and to date we can only assume. Secondly, it should be noted that having such a high number of games of primary importance under your banner since their release also means implicitly putting a spoke in the wheel for Sony, obviously forced to charge. the full price for the same products. Considering the price increase of individual titles, as predictable as it is ill-accepted, reaching the threshold of 80 euros, Microsoft's strategy turns out to be even more brilliant, when compared to the annual cost of the Game Pass.
There is a big "but" in all of this, which for now hovers like a shadow as cloudy as it is pale but which in the future could actually lead to undesirable consequences for the sector, at least from the point of view of us players. The possibility of a totally asymmetrical balance in favor of any of the protagonists of the industry is the least we can hope for, the competition, the healthy and inspiring one, cannot and must not cease to exist if you want to continue to enjoy a rich, varied and qualitatively attractive market. Furthermore, the risk that over time, even in the very long term, the public will get used to having everything available in a subscription with an unfair cost, if compared to the total value of the offer, is decidedly high. Not unlike services like Netflix or Amazon Prime, the player could actually lose sight of the value of the single product, approaching the passion for media with a bulimic approach and, consequently, extremely harmful. It may seem perhaps too apprehensive as a point of view but looking at what has happened to the mobile market, it is not so unthinkable. The hope is to be able to keep alive a certain harmony, albeit not without jolts and moments of precariousness, between what is mere marketing and the more "romantic" and purely playful part of what today the term "video game" represents.
Regardless of more or less legitimate doubts, the likes or dislikes we have towards the parties involved and everything that could happen in a (perhaps not so) distant future, today we can only rejoice of the acquisition of ZeniMax Media by Microsoft. The possibility of enjoying titles of exceptional caliber on the Game Pass without having to further put your hand to your wallet and what the combination of two similar powers could set up is exciting. And if this move were to put a lot of pressure on the Japanese rival, as it probably will be, all the better: any "response" from Sony can only be arranged on the same pitch, and however feeble it may turn out, we players would again be the ones to gain. . In short, a very interesting generation is expected in the light of these facts and still we are far from seeing the actual results of this union which still today is more the result of a naive dream but which, as the best of real estate would say, is a solid reality.