Xbox boss Phil Spencer has revealed that one of the reasons Microsoft acquired ZeniMax and its subsidiary, Bethesda, was due to concerns that Sony might make Starfield a timed PS5 exclusive. This revelation came during hearings over the Xbox Activision deal, where Spencer confirmed rumors that Sony was seeking a timed exclusivity deal for Starfield.
Sony’s Previous Deals with Bethesda
Before the acquisition of ZeniMax and Bethesda by Microsoft, Sony had already secured timed exclusivity deals for games like Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo. These deals were honored even after Microsoft’s acquisition, delaying the games’ release on Xbox for a full year, despite their developers becoming first-party Xbox studios.
Securing Content to Remain Viable
According to Spencer, Microsoft could not afford to be in a position where they fall further behind on content ownership as a third-place console. Therefore, they had to secure content to remain viable in the business. This effectively confirms reports that Sony was seeking timed Starfield exclusivity back in 2020, even before Microsoft’s acquisition of ZeniMax and Bethesda.
The Alternate Reality Where Starfield is a PS5 Exclusive
It appears that the disgruntled gamers behind the “make Starfield a PS5 exclusive” petition might have gotten their wish in an alternate reality. Had Sony successfully secured timed exclusivity for Starfield, it would have been a major blow to Xbox and Microsoft’s plans for the game’s release. However, with Microsoft’s acquisition of ZeniMax and Bethesda, Starfield will be available on Xbox and PC, as well as through Xbox Game Pass.
In summary, Microsoft’s acquisition of ZeniMax and Bethesda was partly driven by fears of Sony securing timed exclusivity for Starfield. This move allowed Microsoft to secure content and remain competitive in the gaming industry.