Phil Spencer says Microsoft bought Bethesda to prevent Starfield being PlayStation-exclusive

Phil Spencer in a Grounded t-shirt
(Image credit: Microsoft)

During the hearing for the FTC's current case against Microsoft, Xbox boss Phil Spencer explained that part of the reason the company bought ZeniMax Media, the holding company that owns Bethesda Softworks, was the fear that Starfield might not come to Xbox. Bethesda had made a timed exclusivity deal with Sony for two of its other games, which would keep them off Xbox until a year after release.

"When we acquired ZeniMax one of the impetus for that is that Sony had done a deal for Deathloop and Ghostwire [Tokyo]... to pay Bethesda to not ship those games on Xbox," Spencer said, via The Verge. "So the discussion about Starfield when we heard that Starfield was potentially also going to end up skipping Xbox, we can't be in a position as a third-place console where we fall further behind on our content ownership so we've had to secure content to remain viable in the business."

Spencer explained to the court that releasing games on both consoles handed money to Sony that it then used against its competitor. "Every time we ship a game on PlayStation... Sony captures 30% of the revenue that we do on their platform and then they use that money among other revenue that they have to do things to try to reduce Xbox’s survival on the market," he said. "We try to compete, but as I said, over the last 20 years we've failed to do that effectively."

On the question of whether that meant The Elder Scrolls 6 would be exclusive to Xbox and PC, Spencer remained vague. "I think we've been a little unclear on what platforms it's launching on, given how far out the game is," he said Spencer. "It's difficult for us right now to nail down."

The first Bethesda game to skip PlayStation since the acquisition was Redfall, released in May, which hasn't exactly been a stinging blow in the war against Sony, with Spencer personally apologizing for its "disappointing" launch

The US isn't the only country holding up Microsoft's proposed $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard. Trade commissions in several countries have either attempted to block the deal or remain undecided on it. We've got a handy map of which countries are blocking the Microsoft-Activision deal

Jody Macgregor
Weekend/AU Editor

Jody's first computer was a Commodore 64, so he remembers having to use a code wheel to play Pool of Radiance. A former music journalist who interviewed everyone from Giorgio Moroder to Trent Reznor, Jody also co-hosted Australia's first radio show about videogames, Zed Games. He's written for Rock Paper Shotgun, The Big Issue, GamesRadar, Zam, Glixel, Five Out of Ten Magazine, and, whose cheques with the bunny logo made for fun conversations at the bank. Jody's first article for PC Gamer was about the audio of Alien Isolation, published in 2015, and since then he's written about why Silent Hill belongs on PC, why Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale is the best fantasy shopkeeper tycoon game, and how weird Lost Ark can get. Jody edited PC Gamer Indie from 2017 to 2018, and he eventually lived up to his promise to play every Warhammer videogame.