Xbox could recoup $7.5 billion Bethesda purchase without putting games on PlayStation, says Phil Spencer

(Image credit: Microsoft)

One of the big questions that arose in the immediate aftermath of Microsoft's acquisition of Bethesda—number three in our top five—was whether the studio's future games would be released on PlayStation platforms. Keeping Fallout 5 or The Elder Scrolls 6 off of Sony consoles would mean a lot of lost game sales, but it could also have a major impact on Microsoft's bigger plans: If you love Bethesda's open world RPGs, and they're only available on Xbox, it's probably going to be a factor when it comes time to decide where to spend your money.

In an interview with Kotaku, Xbox boss Phil Spencer didn't say that Microsoft would make future Bethesda games console-exclusives on the Xbox, but he did emphasize that it could. When asked if the company would be able to recoup the $7.5 billion it spent on the acquisition without selling Elder Scrolls 6 on PlayStation consoles, Spencer said flat-out, "Yes."

"I don’t want to be flip about that," he continued. "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."

Spencer has previously said that Microsoft will honor existing agreements for PS5 releases, but beyond that it will determine which games to bring to which hardware on a case-by-case basis. And as Kotaku pointed out, it doesn't even have to be an all-or-nothing proposition: Microsoft could, for instance, release The Elder Scrolls 6 (or whatever) as a full-priced retail game on the PlayStation while also making it available on Xbox Game Pass, and that'd still be a hell of a lever. Microsoft hasn't shown any strong leaning one way or the other on its long-term plans for possible console exclusivity, but it's interesting that Spencer is so readily willing to even float the possibility.

The bulk of the interview is focused on Microsoft's upcoming Xbox One S and X consoles, but Spencer also said that there's no new update on the status of Halo Infinite, which was delayed in August, and left open the possibility that its campaign and multiplayer components could be released separate, saying, "I think that’s something to think about, but we want to make sure we do it right."

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.