Bethesda Will Make Better Games Under Microsoft, Says Todd Howard - NewsWilliam 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."
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @TrunksWD.