Todd Howard Says It's "Hard To Imagine" The Elder Scrolls 6 Being An Xbox Exclusive
Bethesda isn't just looking to create new games for Xbox. It wants to be at the forefront of subscription and cloud gaming services.
The acquisition of Bethesda parent ZeniMax Media by Microsoft has been one of the largest deals in the history of gaming, and one that Bethesda creative director Todd Howard believes will result in an even better future for the industry. In an interview with GamesIndustry.Biz, Howard said that Microsoft hasn't decided what its approach to console exclusivity will be, but that it will be "hard to imagine" the two companies not launching a game like The Elder Scrolls 6 on other platforms as well.
Bethesda had largely been an independent producer and publisher of games before the deal was accepted and work began on finalizing the merger.
"Once the shock wore off, there was just huge excitement given the relationship we've had [with Microsoft] and what the road looks like ahead--not just for us but the gaming industry," Howard said about how Bethesda reacted to the news internally. "We're very much aligned, and have been for a long time, with the same vision as to where gaming is going and how we can be ambassadors and drive that forward."
Bethesda will still publish its own games, as the company will be "giving up very little," according to Howard. "[Microsoft is] very creator-driven, we're still going to get to be who we are. We're a subsidiary, but we're still running our games and pushing everything the way that we have," Howard explained. "We felt very strongly about their view of access; games for everybody that we can bring to anybody regardless of where they are, what devices they're playing on. We're very, very passionate about that, and at the end of the day we're convinced we'll make better products and get them to more people easily by being part of Xbox as opposed to being just a third party."
While games like Starfield and The Elder Scrolls 6 will be on Xbox Game Pass when they're eventually finished, Howard sees the subscription service as a chance to highlight and revive older games, allowing them to be successful according to a different metric instead of just looking at how many units have been sold.
"Subscriptions came along and now you see the quality and investment in dramas or historical fiction series," Howard said. "That's where creators are able to go and create these things people want and it makes sense for everybody: the people paying the bills, the people creating it and the people consuming it. That's what we see happening with games with things like Game Pass. But take classic adventure games, they now have real-life inside a service like that. Those are games that really don't make a lot of economic sense at $60, or maybe even at $30 if someone's going to play it for five or six hours, but in a system like that it makes complete sense."
Howard believes that subscription and streaming services will be the primary platforms that consumers will use to access game titles, eventually resulting in ease of access to titles across multiple devices no matter where you are in the world. Microsoft is poised to take advantage of this digital shift, as it also has its game-streaming service as part of Game Pass.
By continuing to focus on a gaming ecosystem that encompasses both traditional physical and digital models of distribution, Howard foresees a future with a more mobile setup for playing games. As for Bethesda’s future game releases, titles with the potential to be multi-platform releases will continue to be judged on a case-by-case basis until the details of the ZeniMax deal are finalized.
"We do view it, and always have by ourselves, on a case-by-case basis," Howard said. "We'll do that as part of Microsoft as well. They've been pretty open on other platforms and not just within Xbox. This is an outside perspective, but if you go back ten years at Microsoft, you wouldn't expect them to have a full Office suite on an iPhone either."
Games such as Ghostwire: Tokyo and Deathloop will have their PlayStation exclusivity deals honored by Microsoft, while Xbox boss Phil Spencer is excited for the future of the company now that he knows the "future roadmap" for Bethesda's game studios and believes that it is an "incredibly exciting time" for both parties.