EU Approves Microsoft’s Bethesda Bid

By Ben Hamill - March 13 2021

EU Approves Microsoft’s Bethesda Bid

The European Commission (EU) has finally approved software giant Microsoft’s bid to acquire gaming and media giant ZeniMax Media in a stunning $7.5 million deal. ZeniMax Media is the parent company of Bethesda Softworks, the studio behind big-money gaming titles like Doom and Fallout.

Since the EU has determined that Microsoft’s bid does not raise any serious issues regarding a possible cannibalisation with the local gaming market, it has elected to issue its approval without any additional trade or other conditions. Microsoft required the EU’s permission in order to bring Bethesda titles and future games developed by the famous gaming studio to its Xbox Game Pass subscription service.

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Unconditional Approval By EU

According to an official statement confirming the EU’s approval and unconditional approval of the acquisition bid, Microsoft acquiring Bethesda Softworks poses no potential threat to the sustainability of a non-monopolised gaming market or to competition laws and regulations.

The EU also added that it based its decision on the combined entity’s “limited” market position upstream, as well as the presence of strong competitors further down the line in terms of the development and distribution of video game titles. The bid was reportedly investigated and examined according to standard merger procedures.

Once Microsoft has completed its takeover of its newest asset, it will own a total of 23 first-party gaming studios. The software giant via the bid acquires several Bethesda sub-studios, including MachineGames (Wolfenstein), id Software (Doom), Tango Gameworks (The Evil Within), and Arkane (Dishonored).

The plan is reportedly to keep Bethesda running as a separate games development entity, but under Microsoft’s broader umbrella. It’s a model that has worked for several other Microsoft-acquired studios, including GitHub, Mojang, and LinkedIn.

It’s Been Coming Since September

The software giant first announced its interest in a Bethesda take-over in September last year. Microsoft at the time of the original announcement promised to honor its current PS5 exclusivity commitments for both Ghostwire: Tokyo and Deathloop. Also remaining as is on the support front would be The Elder Scrolls: Online, said Microsoft at the time.

According to several comments made by Microsoft Gaming Chief Phil Spencer during the September announcement, each future Bethesda title will be approached on a “title-by-title” basis. Nothing was said regarding how Microsoft planned to approach the topic of upcoming Bethesda title, Starfield.

But the fact of the matter is that Microsoft may not even have to launch Bethesda across an exclusively-Xbox product offering model. Merely ranking Bethesda on Xbox Game Pass will likely emerge a big enough draw for luring players into a subscription.

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