The landscape of games is ever shifting and evolving with bold moves that have some initial shock value. The latest of these is Microsoft’s purchase of ZeniMax, which has put the future of Bethesda games on PlayStation in question. Will The Elder Scrolls VI and Starfield come to PS5? Is Fallout now an Xbox exclusive? While Microsoft has previously said multiplatform games will be decided on a “case-by-case basis,” a new interview with Phil Spencer indicates that those decisions are not about recouping the purchase investment.
Talking with Kotaku’s Stephen Totillo, Spencer was asked about the $7.5 billion investment and what it might take to recuperate that cash. “Is it possible to recoup a $7.5 billion investment if you don’t sell Elder Scrolls VI on the PlayStation?” Totillo plainly asks.
Spencer’s immediate answer, without hesitation, is “yes.” Microsoft does not need to make Bethesda games multiplatform in order to make back the money spent purchasing ZeniMax. However, just because Microsoft could make the return on investment without PlayStation doesn’t necessarily mean they will.
Spencer continued, “I don’t want to be flip about that. This deal was not done to take games away from another player base like that. Nowhere in the documentation that we put together was: ‘How do we keep other players from playing these games?’ We want more people to be able to play games, not fewer people to be able to go play games.”
However, the crux of the decision does not lie in using PlayStation releases of Bethesda titles to make costs back. “But I’ll also say in the model—I’m just answering directly the question that you had—when I think about where people are going to be playing and the number of devices that we had, and we have xCloud and PC and Game Pass and our console base, I don’t have to go ship those games on any other platform other than the platforms that we support in order to kind of make the deal work for us. Whatever that means.”
Strategic releases of Bethesda games on other consoles would be just that: strategy. And certainly one element of that strategy is what makes more sense in order to add value to Microsoft’s array of Xbox platforms and services. For games like Mojang’s Minecraft and even Bethesda’s own Elder Scrolls Online, Microsoft has and will continue to operate those games on PlayStation. But it leaves no guarantees for future releases. Perhaps Microsoft claims an all-new franchise like Starfield as its own exclusive while continuing to release the likes of Fallout and Elder Scrolls on PlayStation platforms. That’s all speculation right now. In all likelihood, the piece-by-piece strategy for upcoming Bethesda games—outside of those that already have PS5 releases and exclusivity deals—hasn’t even been locked in yet.
While this may not answer any questions about Bethesda games coming to PlayStation in the future, Spencer makes one thing clear: Microsoft doesn’t need PlayStation to make the ZeniMax purchase pay off. Any multiplatform Bethesda releases following the acquisition will be by choice, not necessity.