Can The Microsoft Acquisition Of Zenimax Save The Modern Bethesda From Itself?

Can The Microsoft Acquisition Of Zenimax Save The Modern Bethesda From Itself?
Credit: Bethesda via Youtube

Microsoft has been doubling down recently after a rough bout fought against the unflagging PlayStation 4 from Sony, thought lost generally due to Microsoft’s abhorrent press conference revealing of the Xbox One (and subsequent E3) where they excitedly claimed that, borrowing games brought players on a bizarre journey of microtransactions and juggling discs, which resulted in Sony releasing a legendary commercial that they allegedly filmed in their hotel room.

Which led Sony to putting together this famous commercial, allegedly in their hotel room after watching the Xbox E3.

This, along with patents to use the Kinect to gauge how many people were watching media in a room, and charging account owners as necessary, didn’t exactly go over too well with gaming fans.

Just as a reminder, that actually happened, and watching the 2013 Xbox reveal is likely going to be a highlight for years within the gaming industry of what not to do.

Microsoft has been hard at work digging themselves out, on the back of the Xbox Game Pass for PC and a far more open economy where they bring their titles to the PC more readily, if nowhere else. Their newest movement has been the purchasing of Zenimax, the parent corporation that ultimately owns Bethesda and is responsible for The Elder Scrolls Online.

Zenimax was founded by two of the original founders of Bethesda in 1997 as a parent shell for Bethesda, which has grown into its own on the back of financing coming from Bethesda shares.

With this in mind, it’s arguably worth taking a look at Bethesda as of late. TES III: Morrowind was an impressive height of roleplaying and absolute freedom which has been further neutered as The Elder Scrolls series continues.

TES IV: Oblivion brought about what many point to the first moment where developers realized they could charge users whatever they chose for in-game content, bringing about microtransactions in its current stage on the back of horse armor.

Skyrim, some argue, is the lowest that Bethesda has fallen in terms of story and content, with its saving grace being an eager modding community that has ensured their mods can be used on multiple platforms. Bethesda then attempted to monetize that to massive community backlash, and then they continued doing so with their own Bethesda launcher.

On the Fallout side of things, it’s painting a similar story: Fallout: New Vegas (developed by Obsidian) is considered by many to be a crowning achievement in storytelling, while Bethesda-developed titles have fared consistently worse as time progresses and Bethesda continues to iterate on ‘lowest-common-deonminator’ development moving forwards, as seen in a lack of actual agency players have within the most recent Fallout 4.

Fallout 76 is considered by many, if not most, to be the greatest failure from the formerly-beloved studio. Chock full of bugs that would delete all progression, $100 subscriptions for a private server (that still wasn’t safe from omnipresent griefing) and a general lack of content that didn’t feel repetitive seemed to note Bethesda’s consistent fall into oblivion.

Where these pressures came from (either Zenimax or Bethesda), and how they ultimately came to begin adversely affecting Bethesda-developed titles isn’t entirely sure; if the pressure did come from Zenimax for Bethesda to produce more profit, however, than Microsoft’s buyout could be a saving grace for fans of in-depth RPGs and open-worlds that encourage you to experiment.

Unfortunately, even if it is a saving grace for Bethesda and its fans, it comes at a hefty price: more exclusivity being waged against consumers on different consoles to encourage users to invest in as many platforms as they could possibly afford lest they miss out on the next ‘must-play’ experience.

While concrete news and statements regarding precisely what the next Elder Scrolls and Fallout titles will hold, it’s undoutably going to offer a rare pivotal moment for the developers at Bethesda who were once regarded as legends in the RPG scene. Time will tell if they capitalize on this opportunity, or capitalize on their player base.