Yesterday we might’ve gotten one of the gaming industry’s biggest news stories this generation, the fact that Microsoft Xbox had acquired Zenimax, owner of Bethesda and other gaming companies.
Met with a lot of joy from one-half of the people, the other half seemed to push for Sony to respond by doing something similar to another publisher. Personally I was sitting and shaking my head at the thought of a “war” breaking out for publishers.
From Microsoft’s perspective, I think this deal was perfect. It also cemented the fact that they’re very serious going into this upcoming generation(s). They grew their total studios from 15 to an astonishing 23 studios. More than that, all previous Zenimax titles will be available on Game Pass – and all future ones will launch day one on Game Pass too.
The question that pops up is what happens with Nintendo and PlayStation. According to Bloomberg, the existing deals in place will continue as planned. But Starfield and beyond will be on Xbox/PC, and other consoles will get games on a “case per case basis”
Here’s where the problem comes for me, as a consumer. When purchasing a single developer, like Microsoft buying Double Fine Productions or Ninja Theory, they simply acquire talent, a few IPs, and a solid team. When purchasing an entire publisher, they get multiple teams and an infinite amount of IPs.
While this is great for Microsoft, and Xbox as a platform – it isn’t good for the rest of the industry in my eyes.
At first glance, this might look like an investment for Microsoft, but this is most likely an “attack” on competitors by Microsoft, showing their stance and how serious they are regarding Xbox. What I’m afraid will happen, is that this might set off a huge bidding war for certain publishers. (Although I realize that this won’t happen overnight, it can happen during the upcoming 5-10 years or so)
While I believe that EA, Take-Two, and Activision/Blizzard is untouchable from any and everyone, I do think that most publishers could be on the table. The general consensus on forums is that Sony PlayStation should acquire a publisher as a response, but I think that people forget that there are bigger fish looking for the same thing.
I think the companies that might be bigger question marks, are Facebook, Google, Amazon, and the biggest one: Tencent. Some of these will most likely make some moves as an answer to this, which could be worrisome depending on which one does something, and what they get.
If an acquisition war breaks out, what would be the most likely candidates for purchase? Well, I don’t think its a question that can be answered, I think there’s a good possibility that companies like Ubisoft, Capcom, Konami, Kadokawa, and Square Enix could be targets for acquisition. I will go over Ubisoft and Konami as the primary ones.
While Ubisoft might seem like an unreachable target for a lot of people, I would argue that they aren’t. Ubisoft has had a lot of problems regarding their recent output and even more-so their owners and management, which have found itself running into a lot of controversies throughout the last few months.
An acquisition could fix this, as it would give Ubisoft new management.
What companies would fit with Ubisoft? Well, not a lot. But there are two companies I worry about in particular, Tencent is one. Albeit, Tencent would at least keep them a third party. The other one is Google, which is very close to Ubisoft and has great support from them. I think everything depends on how serious Google actually is regarding gaming.
Ubisoft would most likely request to continue releasing their games on all platforms.
The other one is Konami, which I think is the only kind of acceptable publisher to pick up – since they pretty much have left the gaming industry. What’s worth bringing up with Konami is that they do a whole lot more than video games, which means that the company buying would either have to buy the gaming division / IPs or take care of a company that has a lot more than games.
I don’t know what company would want to purchase Konami, but the one that does would get an array of great IPs, like Castlevania, Bomberman, Metal Gear Solid, PES, and Silent Hill – great games with a lot of history tied to them. The question is, would Konami be willing to sell these, as they are doing well economy wise. (Although, so were Zenimax)
Again, this won’t happen overnight. This is a long process, it’s being reported that the Xbox / Bethesda deal has been worked out since 2018, and buying an entire publisher is a long process in any industry. You won’t see Sony buying Square Enix next week as a response to this, you’ll see it in a few years most likely (IF it even happens, that is)
The question that seems to be on a lot of people’s minds is if and what Sony and Nintendo’s response will be. I would like to go over what I believe we’ll see them do.
The boring answer here is that I don’t think Nintendo will do a whole lot. They’re doing their own thing and succeeding at it. I could see them going after a few developers for support teams or further support for their existing IPs. The biggest one that comes to mind is Platinum Games, however, that won’t happen since Platinum Games want to be independent av even recently partnered with Tencent because of this.
I think the big thing that Nintendo will do in response is to continue investing in exclusive third party games, for example, Mario x Rabbids, Hyrule Warriors, or even Bayonetta. I think there’s a chance we could see a game like F-Zero or Star Fox from third party devs in the future.
I would be surprised if Nintendo tried to go after a publisher, and don’t know if they’d have enough money anyway since it’s valued a lot less than even Sony is.
The more interesting contender would be PlayStation, which is more-so the direct competitor of Xbox. I’ve seen two opinions go around the internet, the first being that they should respond by purchasing Square Enix, Capcom, or Konami. (I’ve even seen all three being passed around, which speaks plenty of what fans might believe is believable)
The other opinion is that Sony has no money, and can’t do it. Which I don’t particularly agree with. I see the point, but after doing some research, Sony is worth around 100 Billion Dollars, which is a lot less than Microsoft. While we don’t have official numbers for how much Sony can spend, we know that they can spend a lot of money.
Looking at recent strategies and rumors, they recently purchased a 250 Million Dollar stake in Epic Games, and last year they purchased Insomniac Games for 229 Million. More interesting, Sony was looking at buying Leyou Interactive earlier this year for around 1.3 Billion Dollars.
While it isn’t 7.5 Billion, I want to take a look at Sony’s division, without a doubt Gaming & Network is Sony’s main part. It earns Sony the most money and is at this point the most important part of the company. It is solidified by the fact that Sony is getting third party exclusives left and right, starting with Deathloop, Ghostwire, and Final Fantasy XVI – two of which are Bethesda games.
However, the point is that if Sony feels threatened by this move from Microsoft, I don’t think it’s impossible we see them striking back by going after a publisher. If you’re talking about needs and logical fits, I’d say that Square Enix is the best one by far. They have the Marvel licenses for Avengers (And Guardians, according to rumors), they have JRPGs in Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy, a lot of gaming history, and games with ties to PlayStation like Tomb Raider.
However, while I do believe something like this would be possible, it would also be a huge risk for Sony to take on. The fact that they would have to spend such a big amount of money would be a daunting task when you don’t have a backup as Microsoft does.
It’s also worth taking a look at the different stances the Xbox and PlayStation has. Microsoft is very much trying to get rid of generations, expanding Xbox to more platforms, while PlayStation has a focused eco-system on the console. In this sense, getting a publisher might not be worth it for Sony unless they’re a sure-fire way of earning money.
The strategy I foresee Sony taking is acquiring talent and studios, but it won’t be a publisher. I do believe we’ll see a big one, however, and that is Kadokawa. I recently wrote an article about the PS5’s Japanese support and wrote about this in detail. But Kadokawa has two things Sony wants – great games because of FromSoftware and anime, something that Sony wants to expand in.
I also think that while FromSoftware is only one development team, it would make a statement throughout the entire gaming industry. “We have Naughty Dog and FromSoftware,” says a lot.
Otherwise, the most likely gets would be Housemarque and Bluepoint, since they have a tight relationship, work closely with other SIE studios, and the former is in need of a stabilized economy.
As a conclusion, I want to once again be very clear with the fact that I don’t want to see publishers being acquired in the future. While it can be “hype”, it can also be plenty to worry about. However, I once again want to congratulate Pete Hines, Phil Spencer, Aaron Greenberg, the teams over at Microsoft and Bethesda – and wish them the best of luck. I also don’t think that Microsoft is done, and think there’s a possibility we’ll see yet another company to be acquired (Like Bungie for example)
I’m happy for everyone involved. But I am worried about the future of the industry and how this will affect the coming generations. As I said, while this is great for Xbox, I don’t know if this is great for the rest of the industry. And what would happen if Sony, Nintendo, Google, or Tencent did the same?
It’s a scary thought. For now, let’s celebrate the current, thriving industry, and think about the fact that the upcoming generation should be amazing whether you play on PC, Xbox, Nintendo, or PlayStation!