Head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, has claimed that Microsoft’s acquisition of Bethesda was motivated by a fear that Sony might incentivize the studio to “skip our platform”.
While providing testimony at the ongoing court battle between Microsoft and the US Federal Trade Commission over the former’s proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard, Spencer voiced his concern that when it came to Starfield, Sony might “pay Bethesda not to ship [the game] to Xbox” (via The Verge). Spencer cited Sony’s initial exclusivity deals for Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo, claiming that these were a major “impetus” for the acquisition of ZeniMax – Bethesda’s parent company.
Spencer continued: “when we heard that Starfield was potentially also going to end up skipping Xbox, we [knew we couldn’t] be in a position as a third-place console where we fall further behind on our content ownership… We’ve had to secure content to remain viable in the business.”
“Every time we ship a game on PlayStation… Sony captures 30 percent of the revenue… and then they use that money… to do things that try to reduce Xbox’s survival on the market. We try to compete, but as I said, over the last 20 years we’ve failed to do that effectively.”
Spencer’s testimony is part of a wider Microsoft campaign to allay concerns that Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard could lead to a monopoly within the games industry. Microsoft has made numerous concessions in an attempt to address these concerns, notably striking up a historic deal with Nintendo that promises to bring Call of Duty to the Japanese video game company.
Microsoft has endured a great deal of scrutiny since announcing its intention to purchase Activision Blizzard, with government bodies across the world. Though both the Chinese government and the European Union have approved the acquisition, subject to a range of caveats, the UK’s competition watchdog opted to block the deal, while the US Federal Trade Commission’s legal scrutiny of the deal is ongoing.
Starfield received a great deal of attention at E3 2023, including character creation previews, details on the special editions, and the heralded return of one of the most annoying NPCs in Bethesda history.