The court proceedings to justify why Microsoft should be allowed to acquire Activision Blizzard are still currently ongoing. In a response to the UK market regulator’s statement about the acquisition, the publisher suggests that it makes good business sense for them to make a “mid-sized” game like the upcoming Elder Scrolls VI exclusive, while also arguing that there’s just too much money to be made from having Call of Duty on PlayStation to pull that from Sony’s platform.
Yes, Microsoft is once again trying to explain why games that sell millions of units are not a big deal. Really. Pay no attention to The Elder Scrolls VI or Starfield on the horizon as Microsoft attempts to ram this $70 billion deal through regulatory agencies around the world.
ZeniMax and Bethesda games that were released before the acquisition are still available on the PlayStation store at the time of writing. Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo were previously planned for the PlayStation as part of Sony’s contracts with ZeniMax. However, the fate of new games is still uncertain. Redfall and Starfield, which will release in 2023, are planned to be Xbox and PC exclusives. Which raises the question: How does Xbox decide which games will or won’t be coming to PlayStation consoles? Microsoft has helpfully provided a chart.
First off, games with cross-platform play are less likely to become exclusive. After that, Microsoft has divided games into three categories: Niche, New IP/Uncertain audience, and Mass market audience. Mass market and niche titles will supposedly have the least console exclusivity value, while new IPs with uncertain audiences will have the most.
I understand that Starfield is a new IP, but it feels a little disingenuous to see Microsoft argue that the fanbase is “dedicated” rather than broadly appealing. Or that Fallout 76 is a niche title despite commanding a playerbase of 13 million people. Of course, this isn’t the first time that the publisher has made such outlandish claims. Two months ago, it contested that Call of Duty is an essential game series. Now it’s finally admitting that CoD’s player base size isn’t comparable to most other AAA games that it publishes.
Microsoft also seems to be arguing that making Elder Scrolls VI an Xbox and PC exclusive would not significantly harm Sony—which definitely suggests the upcoming title could be skipping PlayStation. By placing a statement about it under a section about “mid-sized games”, it argues that Elder Scrolls isn’t anywhere comparable to the popularity of Minecraft or Call of Duty, which are two titles that will remain available on the PlayStation. The company also points out that the last Elder Scrolls game was released in 2011 in an attempt to further refute claims that it would be “disenfranchising” PlayStation players by not releasing it on the platform. Kotaku emailed Xbox to ask whether or not Elder Scrolls VI will be exclusive to its platforms, but did not receive a response by the time of publication.
I’m sure that the news must be devastating to Elder Scrolls fans. But for now, I’m laughing my ass off at the mental backflips that Microsoft is asking regulators to perform.