Spencer: Starfield is why Microsoft bought Bethesda

Spencer: Starfield is why Microsoft bought Bethesda

Upcoming ambitious sci-fi RPG Starfield is seemingly the reason that Microsoft bought Bethesda parent company ZeniMax Media.

That's according to Xbox chief Phil Spencer, who – as reported by The Verge – said during the hearings for the FTC vs Microsoft case that the company acquired Bethesda so that it could better compete in the games market.

“When we acquired ZeniMax one of the impetus for that is that Sony had done a deal for Deathloop and Ghostwire... to pay Bethesda to not ship those games on Xbox,” Spencer said.

“So the discussion about Starfield when we heard that Starfield was potentially also going to end up skipping Xbox, we can’t be in a position as a third-place console where we fall further behind on our content ownership so we’ve had to secure content to remain viable in the business.”

Spencer – and Microsoft in general – are at pains to describe how Sony maintains its dominant position within the console space.

“Every time we ship a game on PlayStation... Sony captures 30 per cent of the revenue that we do on their platform and then they use that money among other revenue that they have to do things to try to reduce Xbox’s survival on the market,” Spencer continued.

“We try to compete, but as I said, over the last 20 years we’ve failed to do that effectively.”

Microsoft bought ZeniMax Media for $7.5 billion back in 2020. The deal – and the fact that titles from Bethesda are now becoming Xbox exclusives – appears to be a key piece of evidence for the FTC blocking the company's acquisition of Activision Blizzard.

PCGamesInsider Contributing Editor

Alex Calvin is a freelance journalist who writes about the business of games. He started out at UK trade paper MCV in 2013 and left as deputy editor over three years later. In June 2017, he joined Steel Media as the editor for new site In October 2019 he left this full-time position at the company but still contributes to the site on a daily basis. He has also written for, VGC, Games London, The Observer/Guardian and Esquire UK.