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Phil Spencer still can’t decide if Bethesda’s games will be exclusive to Xbox or not



Insiders point to a high-profile new Microsoft purchase

Phil Spencer brings up again the issue of the exclusivity of Bethesda’s games after the acquisition by Microsoft. And apparently, for legal reasons, he is not yet qualified to decide. But what does Spencer think about exclusive games?

Ever since Microsoft’s multi-million dollar acquisition of ZeniMax Media (Bethesda) was announced, everyone has wanted to know the million dollar question: will the company’s next games be exclusive to Xbox Series X? Phil Spencer’s answers, however, have been vague and contradictory: he went so far as to say that “their intention is not to take games away from another player base”, and then went on to say that “they would not release these games on any platform other than their own”.

Now, in a new interview published by the Danish firm of Gamereactor, Spencer has brought up the subject again, and explained why he has not yet said clearly whether his games will be exclusive or not: because he cannot say so yet.

When asked about their expectations after the monumental deal (beyond having Bethesda’s games on GamePass), Spencer quickly clarified why he has not been able to answer the question of whether the games will be exclusive, which is that they have not yet acquired ZeniMax, but have made public their intention to acquire ZeniMax. Therefore, deciding what to do with their games is not yet up to Spencer.

“Right now we are immersed in legal proceedings and we don’t think it will go wrong. We expect the deal to be closed by early 2021. But I say this because I want people to know that I haven’t sat down with Todd Howard and Robert Altman to negotiate their future, because right now I’m not allowed to do so, it would be illegal. Your question is well linked, but I keep asking things like: “will this title be exclusive? and this one?” And, at this moment, it’s not my business as far as ZeniMax is concerned. My job is not to sit around and analyse their roadmap and tell them what to do next.”

Spencer did go into what his expectations are after the deal, but did not go into exclusivity issues, simply “trying to get these renowned studios to create the best games they’ve ever made”. He sat down with Todd Howard himself, and he said “I want to develop the best work I’ve ever created, and I want Microsoft, with your support, to allow me to do that.

If Starfield and The Elder Scrolls VI (the only two Bethesda games announced for the medium term whose platforms are not yet known) end up being exclusive to Xbox Series X/S and PC, it’s a decision that hasn’t been made yet, at least not in writing. But judging from the interview, Spencer doesn’t seem to be very supportive of the concept of exclusive games – albeit with a great deal of nuance. This is what he said:

“In the long run, this association can turn exclusive projects into a weapon, pitting one against another. And I think exclusive games on a single platform are another marketing tool to encourage you to only use that platform. Does it work? There are analyses that say yes and others that say no. Obviously, they are the perfect tool for creating hype. For example, if we look at this Christmas, PlayStation and Xbox are going to launch new consoles. We are both going to distribute as many units as we can, and I can even predict that we will both sell all the consoles that will be manufactured in 2020. And, if I had another exclusive game, I would run out of stock even earlier, obviously.

From the perspective of exclusivity, it’s true that they are a great marketing tool and, naturally, they can also become magnificent works. But if we take a more general stance, isn’t the world of video games better if more people can enjoy more top-level titles? I think so, and that’s why we launch our projects on Xbox, on PCs, and if you have an Android phone, you can also enjoy them.

Again, Spencer is against the concept of exclusive console games, but because in his case, the Xbox brand encompasses not only Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S consoles, but PCs and even Android via xCloud. Whatever is outside of that (PlayStation and Nintendo) does not seem to be in Microsoft’s plans, and that is why it seems difficult for TES VI or the new DOOMs to be released on PS5, even with Spencer’s “anti-exclusive” stance.

Curiously, with Nintendo he seems to be more open… but not to launching games individually (as has happened with Cuphead or Ori and the Will of the Wisps) but, as he has suggested on several occasions, to integrating Nintendo Switch into its Xbox ecosystem… with all that that would entail for Nintendo. In what can be considered the biggest hint ever thrown at Nintendo, Spencer has gone so far as to include Nintendo Switch as a futuristic Xbox platform, leaving the ball in the court of the Japanese: “And when I say ‘play on Xbox’ I don’t mean the console itself, but how many people connect and play something that is part of our ecosystem, whether it’s a title of their own or of another studio. It could even be from an Android phone, from a Nintendo Switch or from a PC. That’s our way of thinking about it.

I enjoy playing games, and gaming is a passion of mine. Among my favorite games are Tears of the Kingdom, GTA, and Cyberpunk.

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