A Whole New Ballgame (Pass)
September 22, 2020 12:23 PM   Subscribe

Microsoft is buying Bethesda, owner of game franchises including Dishonored, Wolfenstein, The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Doom, Starfield, Quake, Deathloop, and Prey. With a purchase price of $7.5 billion in cash, the deal is one of the biggest ever in the videogames industry – and it's all about growing Xbox Game Pass (and maybe making Fallout: New Vegas 2 happen).
posted by adrianhon (45 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
Dear Microsoft,
All I want for Christmas is for the next Fallout game not to be a multiplayer hot mess like 76.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 12:29 PM on September 22, 2020 [16 favorites]


Instead of New Vegas 2 how about a remaster with the cut legion restored?
posted by nathan_teske at 12:33 PM on September 22, 2020 [3 favorites]


Interesting that now under one roof, MS has the entire span of Fallout lore - with not only Bethesda and Obsidian, but also InXile (Brian Fargo's studio)
posted by drewbage1847 at 1:05 PM on September 22, 2020 [5 favorites]


Technically Microsoft has bought ZeniMax Media, not just Bethesda. Most of those franchises (like Dishonoured, Wolfenstein, etc) are housed with ZeniMax's subsidiaries rather than Bethesda. This also includes id Software, one of the founders of which is famous nerd John Carmack, who remains optimistic:
Great! I think Microsoft has been a good parent company for gaming IPs, and they don’t have a grudge against me, so maybe I will be able to re engage with some of my old titles.
posted by fight or flight at 1:08 PM on September 22, 2020 [1 favorite]


famous nerd John Carmack, who remains optimistic:

They haven't asked him to write the next graphics engine in Visual Basic yet.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 1:19 PM on September 22, 2020 [7 favorites]


Not only does MS now own the Fallout IP with Bethesda, and Obsidian; they also own inExile Entertainment (just released Wasteland 3). This means they house ALL of the original developers / writers of Fallout 1 and 2.

Give me a remaster Fallout 1 and Fallout 2 with the Wasteland 2 (and 3) isometric system.
posted by Groundhog Week at 1:19 PM on September 22, 2020


It sounds like Bethesda will remain the publisher of their games, so I doubt we're going to see anything the lines of reversing the ongoing quality drop in Fallout games until there's a senior management shake up.

I personally think Microsoft has a huge uphill battle here. The stewardship of their existing gaming IP in the past generation was horrible and really set them back. 14 years between decent versions of Flight Simulator. Halo Infinite, their marque launch title for the next gen, is pushed to who knows when after it looked so bad in trailers. Gears hasn't had a new idea since the first game. Crackdown sequels have been a debacle. The Witcher 3 is a huge hit, showing a demand for a well-crafted open world RPG, and yet Fable disappears into a black hole. That they bought Minecraft from a bad person and didn't screw it up afterwards is basically their only gaming win in the past while.

If anything, they see this and are going to lean on Bethesda's senior leadership for help. The leaders of a company whose two biggest hits of this soon to end console generation were finally figuring out that Doom should be fast and gory, not slow and spooky, and finding out that if you keep re-releasing Skyrim people will keep buying it. Call me pessimistic about this deal, but in the meantime I'm looking forward to seeing more games show up on my PC Game Pass

(I do hope that everyone who is jonesing for Fallout New Vegas 2 has picked up The Outer Worlds)
posted by thecjm at 1:36 PM on September 22, 2020 [2 favorites]


(I do hope that everyone who is jonesing for Fallout New Vegas 2 has picked up The Outer Worlds)

On my second play-through right now with the new DLC added. I quit on FO4 about halfway through and never even bothered with 76.
posted by octothorpe at 1:45 PM on September 22, 2020


Someone at Microsoft must REALLY like ambitious but kind of buggy RPGs from 20 years ago as they now own every single existing company that made them back then. inXile, Bethesda, and Obsidian are all design-first developers that only grudgingly support consoles so I wonder how that will interact with being owned by a platform owner...
posted by JZig at 1:50 PM on September 22, 2020 [3 favorites]


We just bought our first-ever gaming console, a Switch, and I’ve been playing a lot of Skyrim. How worried should I be that the next game will be XBox only?
posted by Horace Rumpole at 2:06 PM on September 22, 2020


Microsoft has said they will honor all current plans and will investigate consoles on a case-by-case basis for future titles. Honestly, the next game after Skyrim is probably 3 years away and it is unlikely it would come out for the current generation Switch either way as it will be very underpowered by then.
posted by JZig at 2:11 PM on September 22, 2020


There's a healthy amount of work done by the community to make sure older titles like Quake can be run on current hardware - wonder if Microsoft will nix this. Or start enforcing their license whenever someone makes Doom run on something ridiculous ...
posted by caution live frogs at 2:42 PM on September 22, 2020 [2 favorites]


Or start enforcing their license whenever someone makes Doom run on something ridiculous ...

Knee-jerk reaction, is no, probably not. It's not like toasters or refrigerators running Doom are some kind of threat to the Xbox ecosystem. It's just free advertising from their POV.
posted by axiom at 3:06 PM on September 22, 2020


For those who need a ridiculous doom port for grounding the discussion, I present to you: doom on a pregnancy test
posted by kaibutsu at 3:07 PM on September 22, 2020 [4 favorites]


The stewardship of their existing gaming IP in the past generation was horrible

But Minecraft, which is still bonkers n terms of sales and merch. MS has been very good for the community (much better than tiny Mojang had the resources for) and continues to be pretty hands off when it matters and involved when needed.

Id under a Mojang model could very likely blossom again.
posted by bonehead at 3:38 PM on September 22, 2020


Why do they do these deals in cash? I thought financing was usually cheaper in the sense that credit is cheap.
posted by geoff. at 4:30 PM on September 22, 2020


doom on a pregnancy test

(previously)
posted by Not A Thing at 4:38 PM on September 22, 2020


It's interesting to see that Carmack would consider returning to id, but it's 2020 so they'll just rehire Romero.
posted by ryoshu at 5:15 PM on September 22, 2020


it's 2020 so they'll just rehire Romero

...and the accompanying ad campaign will feature all of the worst early-days gamer taunts. So many boomstick screams on banner ads everywhere.
posted by aramaic at 5:40 PM on September 22, 2020


I highly recommend listening to Waypoint Radio's analysis of this whole thing. It's a brisk podcast and they touch on a bunch of things I hadn't even considered.

On the macro level I think this is probably bad, in the same way that Disney buying Marvel and Fox was ultimately bad. On the micro level, I really hope they are as patient with Arkane as Zenimax seemed to be, at least when they weren't fucking them over.

Zenimax/Bethesda has always been a sort of two-headed god; they have been putting out nice, single player, encapsulated games with a care and attention that other publishers generally focus on monetization. On the other hand, they have had a lot of nasty episodes, like fucking over Obsidian (hey you guys are coworkers now, hahaha awkward), fucking over Arkane so they could buy them, fucking over Human Head in an attempt to buy them, and of course getting startlingly petty with Carmack.

Anyway, I hope Microsoft lets all of these developers, but PARTICULARLY ARKANE, develop the kinds of games that allow their unique qualities to shine. Even those Bethesda have been real assholes many times, I trust them to know how to get quality products out as a publisher more than I do Microsoft.
posted by selfnoise at 5:59 PM on September 22, 2020 [3 favorites]


This deal is all about making GamePass the must-have subscription for everyone who plays games, casual or otherwise. And it will probably work.

When asked (again) about FNV2 the Obsidian twitter account responded with the shrug emoji, which could mean ‘who knows?’ or ‘who cares?’ take your pick.

I think the chances of another Obsidian or InXile making another Fallout or doing a remaster are slim. InXile already has the Wasteland series, and Obsidian has Outer Worlds. Why would they torpedo their own franchises and hype IP belonging to another studio?

I sometimes wonder what it must be like to be Obsidian and have every new game you create stalked by a success from 10 years ago, with people constantly begging for remasters. Say Obsidian did a remaster of FNV. Then what? People would just want another one 10 years from now.

If you want Classic Fallout, go play Wasteland 2/3. If you want more FNV go play Outer Worlds.
posted by um at 6:04 PM on September 22, 2020


inXile, Bethesda, and Obsidian are all design-first developers that only grudgingly support consoles so I wonder how that will interact with being owned by a platform owner...

Interplay went bankrupt in part because they couldn’t or wouldn’t adapt to the console market. Bethesda saw the writing on the wall and found a way to get Morrowind onto the Xbox, and ended up with a success so massive that it transformed the company. Nothing grudging about their support for consoles. They owe their fortune to console players.
posted by um at 6:09 PM on September 22, 2020 [1 favorite]


There are whole studios now like Bluepoint and Vicarious Visions (neither of whom are available but you get the point) who concentrate on remasters/remakes/etc. I'm sure Bethesda have been pitched on a New Vegas remake and Obsidian wouldn't necessarily have to commit a full team, just supervising maybe.

I actually think Obsidian would love to do a AAA console game (and in fact they are currently working on one) it's just that they didn't have the resources to do so in the current era until that sweet Microsoft money rolled in.
posted by selfnoise at 6:11 PM on September 22, 2020


But once again, how does a FNV sequel or remaster help Obsidian sell the games it is making today?

Like, I think gamers should heed one of the core themes of FNV and let go of the past.
posted by um at 6:29 PM on September 22, 2020 [2 favorites]


geoff.: "Why do they do these deals in cash? I thought financing was usually cheaper in the sense that credit is cheap."

I think "cash" in this instance just means not stock, or quantities of United States Dollars the seller receives directly via wire transfer. Microsoft's source of funds likely is some form of corporate debt combined with cash-on-hand.

("Cash-on-hand" doesn't routinely mean money stuffed in a bank account, but the longer "cash and short-term equivalents composed of securities" that the owning company invests for a small return and can convert back into regular cash on short notice.)
posted by fireoyster at 6:49 PM on September 22, 2020 [2 favorites]


If you want more FNV go play Outer Worlds.

And if you want to play the best science-fiction game ever made, go play Outer Wilds.

(And don't read *anything* about it ahead of time, if you can help it.)
posted by straight at 6:59 PM on September 22, 2020 [6 favorites]


It's interesting to see that Carmack would consider returning to id, but it's 2020 so they'll just rehire Romero.

They’d have have to buy him and Brenda Romero out. Incidentally, Romero Games’ upcoming prohibition era gangster strategy game Empire Of Sin looks cool as hell.

I don’t love Microsoft buying up all the studios (they got Double Fine a little while ago too) because historically they haven’t always been that great about preserving non-hit delivering shops, but then again neither is the market. Hope there’s still an Arkane in 5 years.
posted by rodlymight at 7:14 PM on September 22, 2020 [1 favorite]


(I'm just bitter I couldn't preorder a Series X despite being there 15min in advance because MS of all people doesn't know how to code a durable ordering system at this late date in history and despite theoretically understanding the Azure system that is specifically intended to avoid these exact problems but which failed utterly).
posted by aramaic at 7:20 PM on September 22, 2020


On the one hand, I'm not fond of Microsoft becoming the Disney of video games. On the other, at least it wasn't EA.

I almost picked up a game pass subscription before, but realized I owned too many of the games already for it to be worth it. I probably will now.

(As much as I was crapping on EA, I've actually been really happy with their subscription service. I just hate what happens when they buy studios.)
posted by Hactar at 7:48 PM on September 22, 2020


If this means adding Clippy to every game, count me the hell in.
posted by phooky at 8:05 PM on September 22, 2020 [3 favorites]


“Hi, it looks like you were caught trying to cross the border. Can I help?”
posted by um at 8:44 PM on September 22, 2020 [2 favorites]


I do hope that everyone who is jonesing for Fallout New Vegas 2 has picked up The Outer Worlds

Yeah, and it's fun, but I want my Fallout to be open world, not 'a series of smallish worlds the biggest of which isn't even the size of Blackreach in Skyrim'.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 11:40 PM on September 22, 2020 [3 favorites]


It was Outer Wilds' debut on Game Pass as a timed exclusive that convinced me I had to get an Xbox this generation. I would've paid anything to play it (well, not quite – I didn't buy an Xbox One) and it demonstrates Microsoft have pretty good taste in selecting their lineup of indies.
posted by adrianhon at 1:44 AM on September 23, 2020


Prediction:

Sometime in the Future Microsoft is going to buy Warner Brothers, and then Disney is gonna buy Microsoft.
posted by Faintdreams at 4:09 AM on September 23, 2020


Sometime in the Future Microsoft is going to buy Warner Brothers, and then Disney is gonna buy Microsoft.

And then Trump is going to buy Disney.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 6:13 AM on September 23, 2020


@Cardinal Fang
Trump wishes he had that kind of cash.
posted by ®@ at 7:39 AM on September 23, 2020 [2 favorites]


Here's how we slice the Gordian knot of wanting to revisit a classic but not wanting to dwell in nostalgia for the troubled Fallout IP:

Arcanum 2. Nobody who didn't play it cares about it. Everybody who did play either hated it for being a buggy mess or loved it for being this new weird take on the Fallout format or likely as not some mixture of the two. Just throw the newfound resources into a modern 3D isometric engine, a proper writing and testing schedule, and let's get those Victorian steampunk wizards and gunslingers back on the zeppelin.
posted by cortex at 8:33 AM on September 23, 2020 [8 favorites]


I don’t really have anything to add but it’s funny how Microsoft now owns the studios that made hit 90s game Quake and also the studios that made its rival at the time—Marathon—Bungie Studios.
posted by Down10 at 8:35 AM on September 23, 2020 [1 favorite]


I am intrigued by cortex's idea and wish to subscribe to his newsletter.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 8:52 AM on September 23, 2020 [1 favorite]


I don’t really have anything to add but it’s funny how Microsoft now owns the studios that made hit 90s game Quake and also the studios that made its rival at the time—Marathon—Bungie Studios.

Microsoft actually doesn't own Bungie any longer; they spun them back out in 2007. Microsoft retained the Halo IP and created a new studio called 343 to make new Halo games, and Bungie went off to make Destiny and hook up with, then break up with, Activision.

Marathon was really only a rival to Quake (Doom, I guess since they were both 2.5d games) if you were a Mac user. Id Software's primary rival of that period IMO would be Epic Megagames and Unreal/Unreal Tournament. Epic's engine of course went on to take over the world and then they sort of accidentally created Fortnite.
posted by selfnoise at 12:48 PM on September 23, 2020 [1 favorite]


(man, quake was the better single player game, but i had some FUN playing unreal lan parties lemmetellya.)
posted by kaibutsu at 12:57 PM on September 23, 2020


> And if you want to play the best science-fiction game ever made, go play Outer Wilds.

On sale on Epic right now for 35% off, or $16.24, and you can get it down to $6.24 by first "buying" Rocket League for negative ten dollars.
posted by Syllepsis at 6:44 PM on September 23, 2020


Outer Wilds is on Game Pass. At least, that’s how I ended up playing it. Of course, you need to be ok with a subscription to play this way.
posted by um at 6:50 PM on September 23, 2020


Microsoft, it's a good thing you're here! Another settlement needs our help.
posted by xedrik at 7:23 AM on September 26, 2020


(I do hope that everyone who is jonesing for Fallout New Vegas 2 has picked up The Outer Worlds)

This is a perfect example of MS being a bad steward of companies they buy tbh. It feels forced out the door, and the quality very transparently drops off as you make your way through the game. I keep joking that it suffers from “game of thrones horse syndrome

Like seriously compare the depth represented in the first world(which very much feels like it got more love than the entire rest of the game, and was used as a demo to *sell* the game to MS) to everything after like, the third area you visit. There’s cots to sleep on, tons of extra and semi hidden areas to explore and trinkets to pick up, and it just feels *big*. By the time you’re on like Byzantium it feels like an n64 game or halo or something, you just walk down a track and shoot things.

It hooked me at world one and was the first game to truly excite me in years at the time. I seriously haven’t felt more betrayed and let down by how much it falls apart as you go through it in years.

I sort of hope in 5 years or so there’s fan patches and mods that restore cut content, fix things, add stuff on, and maybe some good dlc because holy crap even the *graphics* get worse as you go through it. The first couple areas feel like a cutting edge game and wowed me. By the end it looks like mass effect 1 in some spots... and that’s representative of the entire thing.

And honestly I don’t even hate the game, it was just a huge letdown and I feel really betrayed. There’s so much potential there that’s just squandered. Half the worlds feel like a(good for what it would be, but still) total conversion mod for some game from the late 2000s.
posted by emptythought at 1:12 PM on September 26, 2020 [2 favorites]


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