The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) confirmed that Microsoft would make Elder Scrolls VI exclusive. The title will follow the successful Skyrim, the latest entry in the Elder Scrolls series. ZeniMax Media, which owns the Bethesda Game Studios developing the series, was acquired by Microsoft for $7.5 billion in 2021. The FTC cites in its complaint that the software giant’s behavior in making the ZeniMax titles exclusive to its gaming service is proof it can’t be trusted over the whopping $69 billion Activision merger.
“Microsoft’s past conduct provides a preview of the combined firm’s likely plans if it consummates the Proposed Acquisition, despite any assurances the company may offer regarding its plans,” FTC states in the redacted public version of its complaint. “In March 2021, Microsoft acquired ZeniMax Media Inc. (‘ZeniMax’), the parent company of the well-known game developer and publisher Bethesda Softworks LLC (‘Bethesda’). Microsoft assured the European Commission (‘EC’) during its antitrust review of the ZeniMax purchase that Microsoft would not have the incentive to withhold ZeniMax titles from rival consoles. But, shortly after the EC cleared the transaction, Microsoft made public its decision to make several of the newly acquired ZeniMax titles, including Starfield, Redfall, and Elder Scrolls VI, Microsoft exclusives.”
It can be recalled that Microsoft announced making future Zenimax titles like Starfield and Redfall exclusive after it gained the EU’s approval and cleared the $7.5 billion transaction. Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer hinted the same would happen to Elder Scrolls VI in an interview with GQ last year.
“It’s not about punishing any other platform, like I fundamentally believe all of the platforms can continue to grow,” Spencer told GQ at that time. “But in order to be on Xbox, I want us to be able to bring the full complete package of what we have. And that would be true when I think about Elder Scrolls VI. That would be true when I think about any of our franchises.”
The same idea was almost implied in a 2021 Xbox Wire blog post written by Spencer himself: “This is the next step in building an industry-leading first party studios team, a commitment we have to our Xbox community. With the addition of the Bethesda creative teams, gamers should know that Xbox consoles, PC, and Game Pass will be the best place to experience new Bethesda games, including some new titles in the future that will be exclusive to Xbox and PC players.”
The FTC is pushing the idea that the decision of Microsoft to make the titles exclusive proves that it didn’t keep the “assurances” it made in front of the EU. The European watchdog, however, dismissed this claim about Microsoft making the alleged “commitments.”