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Bethesda Will Make Better Games Under Microsoft, Says Todd Howard

Bethesda Will Make Better Games Under Microsoft, Says Todd Howard - News

by William D'Angelo , posted on 01 November 2020 / 1,528 Views

Microsoft in September announced it had acquired Bethesda Softworks parent company ZeniMax Media for $7.5 billion and Xbox Game Studios will be growing from 15 to 23 studios. 

Bethesda director Todd Howard in an interview with GamesIndustry discussed the acquisition and his team joining Microsoft. He does say the deal won't officially close until 2021, "so there's some time before it feels real.

"Once the shock wore off, there was just huge excitement given the relationship we've had [with Microsoft] and what the road looks like ahead -- not just for us but the gaming industry. We're very much aligned, and have been for a long time, with the same vision as to where gaming is going and how we can be ambassadors and drive that forward."

Bethesda Will Make Better Games Under Microsoft, Says Todd Howard

Howard underestimated the impact of ZeniMax getting acquired by Microsoft and the overall response from the gaming industry. 

"I grossly underestimated the impact in the larger gaming community," he said. "I was naively surprised at how big it landed and what it meant in the larger context of games, but I was happy with the feedback we saw. A lot of people saw it as a big positive thing, the same way we do."

There has been some concern by industry critics that the acquisition will lead to more industry consolidation. Howard isn't worried as they have had a close partnership with Microsoft for a long time. 

"I don't know that it portends some other big consolidation. In other industries, that happens from time to time," he added. "All of the games I've done we've partnered with Microsoft in some way. So as we come to Starfield and Elder Scrolls 6, I guess this is partnering in a bigger way."

Howard says Bethesda and the other studios under ZeniMax will remain who they have always been even under Microsoft. He is convinced they will make better games under Microsoft and they will be able to have more people play their games. 

"[Microsoft is] very creator-driven, we're still going to get to be who we are. We're a subsidiary, but we're still running our games and pushing everything the way that we have.

"We felt very strongly about their view of access; games for everybody that we can bring to anybody regardless of where they are, what devices they're playing on. We're very, very passionate about that, and at the end of the day we're convinced we'll make better products and get them to more people easily by being part of Xbox as opposed to being just a third party."

Bethesda themselves are busy developing Starfield and The Elder Scrolls VI, which will now be available on Xbox Game on day one.

"Game Pass and things like it allow titles to be successful where the economics of the business, and having to sell things at retail to sell X amount of copies... That works against some games. Just like in other avenues -- let's take television or movies. Certain types of comedies or big budget dramas went away. TV went to the cheapest thing they could make for a long time, reality television, which I could equate to a free-to-play match-three game. What brings eyeballs? What's cheap? Right, let's get it out.

"Subscriptions came along and now you see the quality and investment in dramas or historical fiction series. That's where creators are able to go and create these things people want and it makes sense for everybody: the people paying the bills, the people creating it and the people consuming it. That's what we see happening with games with things like Game Pass.

"The IPs you mentioned -- I can't speak to the ones I don't personally work on -- or even other people's... But take classic adventure games, they now have real life inside a service like that. Those are games that really don't make a lot of economic sense at $60, or maybe even at $30 if someone's going to play it for five or six hours, but in a system like that it makes complete sense. It drives a lot of people saying 'Hey, I got to experience that and I wouldn't have any other way,' and the creators got to make it without the burden of 'Will this be successful? Will we get to make another one?'

"I'm extremely optimistic about what something like Game Pass brings, not just to people playing it but to creators being unbridled in terms of what they can create."

Howard believes there needs to be a balance in how to determine the success of an industry. He mentioned the changes in the TV and movie industry moving to a combination of traditional ways of theaters and TV with ads, along with subscription services. 

"I don't think there's one way, and there never should be one way, of gauging success," he said. "Going back to TV and movies, there are certain ones of those that are going to go to the theatre -- things like Avengers. Then they're going to come to rental, and eventually to some sort of subscription or streaming service. And then there are the ones that go straight to television and have ads, and they're successful that way.

"My hope -- and you're seeing it happen, which gives me great joy -- is that all of those avenues are starting to be successful. It's the subscription and streaming ones that gaming hasn't had, and it's coming now and very quickly being proven successful, but that doesn't mean the other ones should or will go away.

"The next generation, the next five or ten years, is really about bringing access to games very easily to everybody, no matter where they are in the world or what devices they like to play."

A life-long and avid gamer, William D'Angelo was first introduced to VGChartz in 2007. After years of supporting the site, he was brought on in 2010 as a junior analyst, working his way up to lead analyst in 2012. He has expanded his involvement in the gaming community by producing content on his own YouTube channel and Twitch channel dedicated to gaming Let's Plays and tutorials. You can contact the author at or on Twitter @TrunksWD.

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shikamaru317 (on 29 October 2020)

I actually really like his analogy about how streaming services saved tv. Never really thought about it, but he is right, during the 2000's many tv genres pretty much died (like sitcoms, which went from one of the most popular genres in the 90's, to only a handful of active sitcoms by 2009) and the norm became reality tv, because it was cheap to produce and got alot of viewers. Then streaming came along, got popular, and Netflix and other services decided to start doing original tv shows, and we started getting the type of shows that we hadn't gotten for over a decade, more sitcoms, big budget fantasy shows, big budget sci-fi shows, etc. I think he is right that the Gamepass model can do the same thing for gaming, Microsoft no longer needs to focus on just huge blockbuster AAA's filled with microtransactions to keep the suits happy, there is room for smaller teams working on smaller games, room for experimentation on new IP's, more room for creativity. We've already seen it, games releasing on Gamepass that we would never have seen in the old days.

Chazore (on 29 October 2020)

Well for starters they can completely do with dumping Gamebryo. For another they can do with hiring actual play-testers, and set a deadline for their game release schedules, as it's been nearly 10 years since the last mainline ES game.

TheLegendaryBigBoss (on 29 October 2020)

You better do Todd, no excuses after fallout 76 and now with Microsoft $$$

Sholities (on 29 October 2020)

Give them a completely new animation department. They are garbage. And give them a new game engine. That's even more garbage.

gtotheunit91 (on 29 October 2020)

They actually have completely redone the animations from the ground up to be more in line with modern animations. A lot of developers at Bethesda have pointed that out in their LinkedIn profiles. Regarding the game engine, Howard did say that they they've completely rebuilt the engine to be ready for next generation. Proclaiming it's the biggest generational leap since Oblivion engine wise. As much of a doozy the engine can be, there's no engine that's more moddable than Creation Engine. As much of a pain as it can be, it's the most community friendly engine in gaming. Which is something that's built Bethesda to become what they are now. Granted, I'll believe it when I see it and taking it with a MASSIVE grain of salt until then, but things are looking optimistic. There's no way Microsoft would allow them to put out something like Fallout 76 again.

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DonFerrari (on 29 October 2020)

We all hope they make better games due to it... but how have all games Bethesda made have partnership with MS and one is timed exclusive for PS5?

trunkswd (on 29 October 2020)

It is all the games Todd Howard has worked on. The games exclusive on PS5 are by other developers under ZeniMax. Bethesda is just one of eight studios.

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gtotheunit91 (on 29 October 2020)

Yeah, there's Bethesda the gaming publisher and Bethesda Game Studios the game developer. They work under 2 different helms but both answer to ZeniMax.

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DonFerrari (on 29 October 2020)

There is also another quote that says he doesn`t think Elder`s Scroll 6 will skip PS5, unless MS determines that. So what freedom does they really have?

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AsGryffynn (on 29 October 2020)

I believe it's either Bethesda's publishing division or Xbox Game Studios who determines that. If they go the Mojang way, it might make it to PS5. If they think they are better off themselves, probably not.

  • +1
DonFerrari (on 29 October 2020)

When the deal was announced it was on the way that Bethesda would still be its own company with autonomy, but certainly MS being the mother company still hold ultimate power. My question is more on how much freedom will MS allow or when they will step in?

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Azzanation (on 29 October 2020)

I cannot imagine him saying the opposite. His head would roll

DonFerrari (on 29 October 2020)

Yep, true or not he wouldn`t say anything on the opposite. Not sure why the downvote.

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gtotheunit91 (on 29 October 2020)

The ones that go straight to television and have ads.......I hope he has no intention of placing ads in their games. I can't stand how 2K, EA, and I recall Capcom at on point in SF placed ads within the game. NEVER want this to be a norm.

Mr Puggsly (on 29 October 2020)

Certainly feasible. Outside of Doom there was room for improvment.