In seismic news, Microsoft have acquired Zenimax Media, their games division, Bethesda Softworks and no less than eight subsidiary development studios in a huge deal worth $7.5 billion or, for context, almost twice what Disney paid for Lucasfilm in 2012.
The deal is the second-largest video game acquisition in history (behind only Tencent's acquisition of Finnish mobile developer Supercell in 2016, for $8.6 billion) and sees Microsoft take over the operation of Bethesda Game Studios, id Software, Zenimax Online Studios, Arkane Studios, MachineGames, Tango Gameworks, Alpha Dog and Roundhouse Studios. Combined with Microsoft's recent acquisition of studios including Obsidian Entertainment and inXile, this means that Microsoft now owns 23 games development studios, a formidable concentration of creative firepower.
It also means that Microsoft now owns many of the biggest IPs in gaming, including The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Doom, Wolfenstein, Dishonored and Prey, among many others.
The immediate fallout (so to speak) is to place the release of the next games in those franchises on the PlayStation platform in some doubt. Deathloop and GhostWire: Tokyo, in development at Arkane and Tango Gameworks, respectively, are timed PlayStation 5 exclusives and presumably those contracts with Sony will have to be honoured, but the question is whether other games like Bethesda's next big CRPGs - Starfield and The Elder Scrolls VI (the sequel to uber-hit Skyrim, rumoured to have the working title Redfall), not to mention the further-off Fallout 5 - will remain multiplatform or become X-Box and PC exclusives.
Another strength of the deal is that it allows Microsoft to share out the franchises with other studios. Obsidian, for example, developed the critically-acclaimed Fallout: New Vegas for Bethesda in 2010 and it's been speculated that they might collaborate again in the future. The acquisition of Obsidian by Microsoft meant that was unlikely, but the new deal now makes it entirely possible for Obsidian to work on, say, Fallout 5 at some point in the future (something that would please many fans).
The news comes ahead of the November launch of both the X-Box Series S and X consoles and also Sony's PlayStation 5. In the runup to launch, the X-Box had gained a narrow technological lead over the PlayStation, but the PlayStation's lineup of exclusives was more impressive. With Bethesda's catalogue potentially becoming X-Box exclusive, that may convince some waverers to support Microsoft over Sony. It'll be fascinating to see how this develops.
Update: Microsoft have confirmed that they will honour the PS5 exclusivity contract over Deathloop and GhostWire: Tokyo, and have not ruled out future games appearing on PlayStation as well.