Microsoft’s $7.5bn takeover of Bethesda gets the nod from the EU

9 Mar 2021

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The games studio behind Doom and Fallout will come under the banner of the Xbox maker after receiving approval on both sides of the Atlantic.

Microsoft has received the nod from the EU for its $7.5bn acquisition of games maker Bethesda, the studio behind Fallout and Doom.

The unconditional approval from the European Commission means Microsoft will take over ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Bethesda. The EU’s competition watchdog said that it found no cause to believe that the acquisition by the Xbox maker would create a monopoly in games in Europe.

“The commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns, given the combined entity’s limited market position upstream and the presence of strong downstream competitors in the distribution of video games,” regulators said in their decision.

Bethesda and its various other arms will expand Microsoft’s gaming capabilities. Much like Microsoft’s purchase of LinkedIn and GitHub, Bethesda will continue to operate largely independently of its new owners and with its own management – an arrangement that appears to have placated regulatory concerns.

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The deal, which was announced last September, is Microsoft’s largest gaming acquisition. As well as getting clearance in Europe, it has also been approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission in the US.

The acquisition raised some questions initially as Bethesda has a number of exclusive deals with Xbox rival PlayStation, but Microsoft said those agreements will be honoured. However, the way that future arrangements between Bethesda and other console makers pan out remains to be seen.

As GamesRadar reports, Bethesda is planning to release its new game Starfield later in 2021, and its release schedule will reveal whether Microsoft will allow such a game to be released on PlayStation or other platforms at the same time as its own.

In a blog post today (9 March), Xbox boss Phil Spencer said Microsoft has now completed its acquisition of ZeniMax Media. He added that Bethesda “understands the potential” of the Xbox Game Pass subscription platform, and that there will be some new Bethesda titles in the future “that will be exclusive to Xbox and PC players”.

Jonathan Keane is a freelance business and technology journalist based in Dublin

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