The Next 'Elder Scrolls' Game Will Be A PC, Xbox Exclusive

from the womp-womp dept

Almost exactly a year ago, Microsoft acquired Zenimax Media, a parent company for several video game publishers, including Bethesda. When that occurred, some sizable percentage of the gaming community asked the immediate and obvious question: does this mean games from Bethesda and others would be Microsoft exclusives? Xbox chief Phil Spencer was the first to weigh in on the question by giving a total non-answer.

“I don’t want to be flip about that,” he added. “This deal was not done to take games away from another player base like that. Nowhere in the documentation that we put together was: ‘How do we keep other players from playing these games?’ We want more people to be able to play games, not fewer people to be able to go play games. But I’ll also say in the model—I’m just answering directly the question that you had—when I think about where people are going to be playing and the number of devices that we had, and we have xCloud and PC and Game Pass and our console base, I don’t have to go ship those games on any other platform other than the platforms that we support in order to kind of make the deal work for us. Whatever that means.”

Whatever that means, indeed. On the one hand, yes, Microsoft had clearly thought about delivering new games to Microsoft-centric platforms… but none of this was done to keep other players from playing these games. To anyone paying attention, that sounded like exclusives wouldn’t be a thing. Todd Howard of Bethesda made many of the same noises.

But then came Xbox CFO Tim Stuart, who’s messaging was a bit less vague but a lot more concerning.

Speaking at the Jeffries Interactive Entertainment Virtual Conference last Friday (as transcribed by Seeking Alpha), Stuart said directly that “in the long run… we don’t have intentions of just pulling all of Bethesda content out of Sony or Nintendo or otherwise. But what we want is we want that content, in the long run, to be either first or better or best or pick your differentiated experience, on our platforms.”

“That’s not a point about being exclusive,” Stuart continued. “That’s not a point about… adjusting timing or content or road map. But if you think about something like Game Pass, if it shows up best in Game Pass, that’s what we want to see, and we want to drive our Game Pass subscriber base through that Bethesda pipeline.”

Still vague, but less so. So, no Bethesda exclusives, but perhaps timed exclusives, timed releases, or content differences on Microsoft platforms. Maybe. Kinda? It’s all very confusing.

Except no it isn’t and it turns out everyone was simply lying. Because Elder Scrolls VI, a Bethesda title, was just announced as a PC and Xbox exclusive after all. And it’s Phil Spencer who is back to drop that bad news.

This week, Microsoft put probably the final nail in that conversational coffin, with Xbox chief Phil Spencer confirming in an interview with British GQ magazine that the upcoming Elder Scrolls VI will be available only on Xbox consoles and the PC.

In a quote that doesn’t seem likely to soothe many PlayStation owners, Spencer said the exclusivity is “not about punishing any other platform, like I fundamentally believe all of the platforms can continue to grow.” Instead, Spencer was focused on “be[ing] able to bring the full complete package of what we have” with the company’s games, meaning integration with Xbox Live, Game Pass, Xbox Cloud Gaming, etc. “And that would be true when I think about Elder Scrolls VI,” he added. “That would be true when I think about any of our franchises.”

Now that clears multiple things up. First and foremost, that Microsoft and/or Bethesda simply lied to the public after the acquisition. And, secondly, that in fact at least some Bethesda titles will in fact be Microsoft exclusives! It’s hard to know for sure, but all those previous statements sure read like cowardice to me. And I will damned well say that Tim Stuart should be very pissed off at how this all makes him specifically look. “We’re not looking to pull Bethesda games out of Sony or Nintendo” some how morphed into the exact opposite.

And so it goes. We have a major gaming hardware manufacturer now buying up a game studio that released its most famous titles on the Sony PlayStation in a way that sure looks like it is purposefully trying to pull those PlayStation owners over into buying Microsoft hardware. I sure hope this was all worth it to those that made money from the acquisition at Bethesda, because this isn’t going to be good for that studio’s reputation with its most dedicated fans.

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Companies: bethesda, microsoft

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Is it abusing its market position when they decide on the same console exclusive release patterns as all their competitors do with the studios they buy?

This is disappointing for PS owners who want to play the next title and don’t also own a gaming PC, but when Sony have exploited this same tactic constantly, is it truly anti-competitive or just the way the market has agreed to compete?

Also, "market position"? They’re not a monopoly in this space by a long shot.

Tom says:

Re: Re:

Eh, if MS forces Bethesda to actually finish their games and not release bug-filled garbage that kills a good story, I’ll support it. As it stands, even the remasters of Morrowind, Skyrim, and Fallout 4 are filled with game breaking bugs. Somebody needed to step in and stop Bethesda from killing their own franchises for a while now.

And anybody who didn’t expect exclusivity to MS supported platforms was deluding themselves since the first announcement. They said as much, though in a round about way, right from the beginning. As for not pulling games from other platforms, they won’t pull anything already published. If you didn’t read the announcements in the context of their the published library, that’s on you Tim. The message seemed clear to me from the beginning.

Then again, I wasn’t holding out hope that Microsoft would cater to Sony. Hope is one hell of a drug. It can make you ignore reality pretty easily.

That One Guy (profile) says:

'No exclusives... except the ones we're making exclusive.'

I sure hope this was all worth it to those that made money from the acquisition at Bethesda, because this isn’t going to be good for that studio’s reputation with its most dedicated fans.

I don’t see why it would bother them too much, they still got the money and as companies like EA and Activision/Blizzard have made crystal clear there will basically always be a large group of diehards that will defend a company no matter what so long as they keep putting out something shiny.

Nice of them to confirm that they can’t be trusted I suppose but for me at least it’s hard to get overly worked up over an exclusive given the quality of their recent games. Seeing how they turned their last Fallout game into an always online, multiplayer, ‘pay to mitigate the annoyances we added’ one that didn’t even include npc’s at launch does not bode well for future games.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: 'No exclusives... except the ones we're making exclusive

Poor wording on my part, I’m concerned that the company either knowingly lied or gave assurances they had no way of knowing were true and would certainly agree that that’s worth criticism either way but what I meant was I’m not overly worked up over missing that particular game given their recent releases don’t exactly bode well for future games.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 'No exclusives... except the ones we're making exclusive.'

"Seeing how they turned their last Fallout game into an always online"

I’ve been a fan of the Fallout series. But if they’ve went to always online, I’ll never buy another as long as that is no choice in the matter. I play single offline. Period.

I’ve already left Microsoft over their BS with Win10, the ecosystem that wants money for every little thing, and the fact that the major majority of malware is all written for Windows as well. I’ve been a happy camper with Linux ever since Win10. It was the final straw. Pretty much given up on most gaming any more. I do other things.

That means I’ll not be buying the newest version of Elder Scrolls. Another that in the past I enjoyed playing. It’s just not worth all the hassles that have now been required to simply play a game, in addition to purchasing the game. The headaches and hassles have made it not worth the ‘experience’.

Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

And then the scorpion said...

Microsoft will always be Microsoft. If you put it on your back and help it cross the river, it will sting you. That’s Microsoft.

On the day researchers showed ALL Windows versions have a zero-day exploit Microsoft tried and failed to patch, and another one in the wings… the only people who believe anything Microsoft says are what we call "suckers."

The way to defeat this is to stop buying their products. Don’t buy PC/Xbox-only games. No more MS consoles. Let them drown in production costs they can’t recoup. Now THAT would be a free market.



Anonymous Coward says:

Microsoft needs Xbox exclusives it spends millions buying studios of course some games will be released on Xbox and pc only it lost the last console war to ps4 its using its millions to try to win the next one its hard to say who is winning since consoles sell out as soon as they appear online Sony also has console exclusives most games appear on Xbox switch and Sony consoles
The consoles are also very close in terms of features and graphics quality its console executives seem to actually like gaming and are mostly doing things right Xbox games pass is a great deal for most gamers

It’s getting hard to find anyone defending blizzard at this point
Microsoft is getting arrogant on windows 11 its making it hard for users to use browsers apart from the edge browser

Anonymous Coward says:

I sure hope this was all worth it to those that made money from the acquisition at Bethesda, because this isn’t going to be good for that studio’s reputation with its most dedicated fans.

Tim, I think your definition of "dedicated fans" must be wildly different from any I’ve seen. The "dedicated fans" will do what ever it takes to keep being fanatical about w/e it is they are fans off.

Now I can totally believe that this might deeply impact their reputation for the majority of their fans (those that simply enjoyed their games but weren’t fanatical about them). But I’ve never heard that crowd referred to as "dedicated fans".

Anonymous Coward says:

Stuart said directly that "in the long run… we don’t have intentions of just pulling all of Bethesda content out of Sony or Nintendo or otherwise. But what we want is we want that content, in the long run, to be either first or better or best or pick your differentiated experience, on our platforms."

"And if it just so happens that this requires us to have games exclusively on our platforms, well… it wasn’t our intention so that makes it okay!"

This is why people who harp on and on about judging people by their intentions and not their actions are actively lying to themselves. It’s a cop-out of an excuse. It’s saying that the road was paved with good intentions and therefore nobody should be allowed to complain that the road is headed straight to hell.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

giving statements suggesting that they wouldn’t be exclusives

To be fair, that’s not what I got out of the statements above. All I got out of the above statements is executives going "We don’t intentionally make game franchises and series unavailable to others, so if things turn out to be exclusive to us, you can’t hold us responsible. Tough tits."

That said, if anyone expected other users of other game consoles to not get mad that their anticipated sequel is out of their reach, that’s a pretty dumb expectation.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"We don’t intentionally make game franchises and series unavailable to others, so if things turn out to be exclusive to us, you can’t hold us responsible. Tough tits."

Which would be a garbage argument as if the ones making those claims are the same ones making the decisions regarding exclusivity then the blame is absolutely on them, and if it’s out of the hands of the ones speaking and they’re just the figurehead if they don’t want the heat for being the one making the bogus claims then they’d better point to who made the decision so the blame can be properly aimed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:


Phil Spencer made it clear from day one that all their games would be available "wherever gamepass is available." If Sony didn’t want to allow that service on Playstation, then they are just as much to "blame" here as MS. It’s well known that MS tried to get Nintendo on board with gamepass, and built new tools just to get it on Macs. Even if we don’t know for certain, it’s a safe bet that they at least talked to Sony about the idea.

Clearly Sony has a stake in protecting their business, and so does MS. No harm, no foul. This is at least the third Giegner piece about how that makes MS the evil tormenter of all the poor, innocent Sony gamers, though.

Both Xbox and PS sell digital movies, but both allow Netflix to exist on their platform. This isn’t really all that much different. They have the ability to get all those games on PS, but Sony won’t allow the app.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

"The games don’t run locally at all."

Very wrong. If you have the console or PC, it’s just the game as you’d normally download only with a licence applied to allow you to play it for as long as you or the game is on Game Pass. There is the additional xCloud option to have to play on other devices or to play without installing for some games, but you can certainly play locally, or even offline for a certain period.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Setting aside the potential software tweaks that would likely be required I can’t imagine why Sony wouldn’t be too keen on hosting MS’s game service on their consoles, one that directly competes with their own service and that the competing company would be getting the lion’s share of the money from…

No, when you offer an absurd deal and the other party turns you down both sides are not equally to blame.

As for the Netflix comparison Xbox and PS might sell movies on the side(I’m actually not sure if PS still does) but movies are not their primary market so Netflix isn’t really competing in a meaningful way with either there. Games are, so Xbox’s game service would be in direct competition with PS’, making the comparison a poor one.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Of course Sony wants to protect their revenue. My whole point all along is, why is Microsoft the only one being raked over the coals for doing the exact same thing?

They said they wanted to bring games to as many people as possible and they would be available on all platforms compatible with gamepass. Now it seems they weren’t able to get cloud gaming on playstation. If a bunch of folks misunderstood that, or held out hope that Microsoft isn’t as revenue-focused as Sony, that’s on the reader. Phil Spencer didn’t say anything definitive until they knew how it would shake out, and held out hope that they could make a deal. Didn’t happen. It’s not any more complicated or nefarious than that.

Anonymous Coward says:

We have a major gaming hardware manufacturer now buying up a game studio that released its most famous titles on the Sony PlayStation in a way that sure looks like it is purposefully trying to pull those PlayStation owners over into buying Microsoft hardware.

Let me know if the Final Fantasy VII remaster, The Last Of Us, etc ever make their way onto PC or Xbox and I will once again scream about how evil Microsoft is. Until then? ????‍♂️

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Reader says:

"We’re not looking to pull Bethesda games out of Sony or Nintendo" some how morphed into the exact opposite.

Except it isn’t the opposite.

Pulling implies taking out something which was there allready.
This is them not putting something new on to other platforms.

Also they never said they wouldn’t make exclusives they just said it wasn’t their goal, their goal might be making the MS ecosystem more attractive, the exclusive would be the means not the end.

Also stuff like "we have no plan to" doesn’t mean it wont happen, just that the person/people saying it don’t have the intention to do so at the moment or even havent a route to the goal.

So "we have no plan to do x" can even mean "we actually do want to, we just don’t know how to get there at the moment"

Always read such statement careful and look at all possible meanings especially look at the tenses and qualifiers. Because there is quite a lot you can do with tenses especially when you consider that most people pretty much brake down everything to simple active present tense sentences in their head including ignoring qualifiers like "yet" or "immediate".

Oh, and always also look what wasn’t said.

In short, it’s actually quite easy to mislead people without actually lying.

Lying = stating something as fact you are aware is false.

PaulT (profile) says:

""We’re not looking to pull Bethesda games out of Sony or Nintendo" some how morphed into the exact opposite."

Well, there’s 2 things here that spring to mind. First off, I suppose it depends on how you interpret the words "pull out". It’s not unusual in this industry for support to be changed during development, for same day releases to suddenly mean one year exclusive on one platform before release, for promised support for older gen platforms to be removed, and so on. So, they may just have intended to say that they wouldn’t be pulling out titles currently supported by those platforms or that they wouldn’t affect things outside of the alpha stages of development. Weasel words for sure, but not unusual.

The second thing that comes to mind is that not offering a native client for this specific game does not necessarily mean that they’re not offering any support whatsoever. Microsoft’s current strategy is heavily focussed on Game Pass. They have promised, among many things, day one inclusion of all first party titles of GP, which they have kept to with several extremely high profile releases in the last month. So, there’s little doubt that the new Elder Scrolls will be on there.

Now, a big part of GP is xCloud, which is working very well for the most part. Not enough to replace a locally installed game necessarily, but more than enough for many games. Part of their strategy with xCloud is cross-platform compatibility. They already have clients within browsers, as well as native clients for some OSes, meaning you can happily play XBox games from a Mac or Android tablets (they’re still trying to fix iOS support but it’s coming), for example. They’ve even included support for it in the XBox, meaning that you can play something only available on the Series X/S even if you can’t get the hardware, and they’re known to be working on support for smart TVs and streaming sticks.

They’re also known to have tried to get support for it from Sony and Nintendo, but have been told a hard "no" in both cases. But, if you wanted to get nitpicky about it, they aren’t removing the ability to play the next Elder Scrolls from Sony and Nintendo customers, they’re just being told they have to use their TV, phone/tablet or Mac to play it streaming instead of playing it natively on their preferred console. Microsoft will happily accept the Game Pass sub from anyone no matter which console they chose to buy.

Obviously, this is not the ideal solution, but I just wanted to point out that, while XBox owners aren’t able to play the Spiderman games at all after Sony bought the developer following their XBox exclusive first title, and both Sony and Nintendo heavily leverage platform exclusives, PS/Switch owners aren’t completely screwed here. They’ll get a less compelling experience quite possibly, and have to use some other hardware they own to play it, but it’s not all or nothing. It’s far from an ideal solution, especially in areas with limited broadband access or aggressively restrictive data caps, but it’s also not "if you don’t buy an XBox you’ll never be able to play the game" either, and that’s actually consumer friendly in the space.

Toro (profile) says:

I can see both sides of this

I don’t think this is just the case of we are Evil Corp trying to screw people to make more money.
Too many take "Exclusive" to mean FU to those that didn’t buy our system or to ‘force’ you to buy their system to play their game

On one side it seems silly not getting your game out for sale to more people. You would think it would sell a lot better if you just put it out for all platforms. So that kind of moves away from the profit motive.

On the other side reduced development resources required to limit to a single platform are so much less. So less development time means less costs so it does increase profits.
Plus yes, the profit motive that some will purchase their system to play said game does linger there.

to Sum up

No it really isn’t just:
<twirls villain mustache> ‘We want to make you buy our system’

but more :
<twirls villain mustache> ‘We want to make the best game with the least amount of resources and that is easier since we can share 2 of the 4 major platforms with little to no extra cost’

basstabs says:

I’m curious why you think Playstation is the home of the series’ most dedicated fans. Arena and Daggerfall are obviously PC exclusives, Morrowind was a Microsoft exclusive, Oblivion only came to PS3 a year after the 360 release, and Skyrim has been ported to every device under the sun. (The PS4 port even had inferior modding support to the XBOne version.) There’s no special connection between Sony and Elder Scrolls.

Sony is no stranger to this behavior. Remember when Street Fighter V skipped XBox because Sony funded its development? Nintendo is guilty too, in case we’ve forgotten about Bayonetta 2. (Although in that case, the developer has stated it was a question of the game being Nintendo exclusive or not existing at all. Whether that’s true or not, of course, is up for debate.)

This is no different than Insomniac: a previously third party developer that was bought up by Sony and now only makes Playstation exclusives. Good luck getting a Sunset Overdrive 2 now. Of particular note is the Spiderman series, a franchise which almost certainly has diehard fans on every console. Yet Sony has the rights to it, and therefore it’s Playstation exclusive. (To the point where Spiderman is Playstation exclusive in the non-exclusive Marvel’s Avengers!) I’m down for criticizing bad behavior in the videogame industry, but Sony is the market leader in anticompetitive bullshit. They were, after all, the staunchest opponents of crossplay for a long time.

Candescence (profile) says:

I mean... Eh? So?

I mean, kinda sucks for Sony diehards, but let’s be frank, the Elder Scrolls series only saw, what, two games on Playstation systems? (Those being Oblivion and Skyrim.) This isn’t a repeat of the Final Fantasy shift from Nintendo to Sony systems or anything like that.

Besides, Sony players always got the worst versions of every game. Skyrim’s Playstation 3 version was notoriously terrible (partly because of the PS3’s notoriously difficult to develop for hardware) and the PS4 version of Skyrim had the second worst mod support (the Switch doesn’t have modding, but I suppose that’s a tad more understandable because storage space and whatnot) because Sony is suddenly the most ass-backwards console maker now in many respects, including cross-play and backwards compatibility.

Again, I get it, it sucks for Sony purists who don’t play on PC, but at least Microsoft is still putting out their games on PC day and date of release, whereas Sony is trickling out older games. Unless Bethesda really steps up their game post-acquisition, PC will always be the best platform to play their games on, if partly because the modders are around to fix the numerous inevitable issues that occur.

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Brandon (profile) says:

I’m getting a different takeaway from that language in the context of which it was made. Microsoft/Bethesda isn’t taking ES6 away from any platforms, in part because it wasn’t promised to any specific platforms. Existing games and pre-existing platform promises are not being withdrawn: Skyrim will continue to work on the billion platforms it already works on and games with platform commitments will not see those commitments change as a result of the acquisition of Bethesda. That’s as much as I’m willing to take away from those statements. There is explicitly no promise in any of those quotes to support any specific non-Microsoft platform.

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

A tale of nails and coffins

Given brook gate and censorgate… and the countable loss of those not hooked on exclusives for the PS platform?

I wonder what the fallout will be if these games all go Xbox/pc.
The fallout for Sony.
Every playable series lost is just one more reason to give up and move on for players.
With a pissed of fan base, pissed off developers, and now more title losses… I wonder if Sony will eventually become just another Sega or Atari anytime soon.

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