The move sees the tech giant take control of ZeniMax Media, which owns Bethesda Softworks, maker of well-known titles including The Elder Scrolls, Skyrim and Wolfenstein.
It comes as the firm prepares to release its next-generation Xbox console in November, going head-to-head with Sony’s new PS5 in the run-up to Christmas.
Microsoft said the acquisition will mean Bethesda’s franchises will be available through its Xbox Game Pass subscription service, with “intent” to bring future games on board the same day they launch on Xbox or PC.
Xbox boss Phil Spencer described the partnership as a “landmark step” in their journey together and makes it “an awesome time to be an Xbox fan”.
“In the last 10 days alone, we’ve released details on our two new consoles which go on pre-order tomorrow, launched cloud gaming in Xbox Game Pass Ultimate and now we’re making another investment in the most critical part of our strategy: the games,” he said.
Today is a special day… We are THRILLED to welcome the talented teams and beloved game franchises of @Bethesda to Team Xbox!
Read the full announce from @XboxP3: https://t.co/Jn0HcTJ9Mi pic.twitter.com/iQVutgT6zq
— Xbox (@Xbox) September 21, 2020
“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.”
The deal brings Microsoft’s total number of internal studios up to 23.
Pete Hines, senior vice president for global marketing and communications at Bethesda, assured fans it is “still working on the same games we were yesterday, made by the same studios we’ve worked with for years, and those games will be published by us”.
Under the terms of the agreement, Microsoft will acquire ZeniMax Media for 7.5 billion dollars in cash.
“Gaming is the most expansive category in the entertainment industry, as people everywhere turn to gaming to connect, socialise and play with their friends,” said Satya Nadella, Microsoft chief executive.
“Quality differentiated content is the engine behind the growth and value of Xbox Game Pass—from Minecraft to Flight Simulator.
“As a proven game developer and publisher, 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.”